Lifestyle Vaccines and Public Health: Exploring Policy Options for a Vaccine to Stop Smoking

Anna Wolters*, Guido de Wert, Onno C. P. van Schayck, Klasien Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Experimental vaccines are being developed for the treatment of 'unhealthy lifestyles' and associated chronic illnesses. Policymakers and other stakeholders will have to deal with the ethical issues that this innovation path raises: are there morally justified reasons to integrate these innovative biotechnologies in future health policies? Should public money be invested in further research? Focusing on the case of an experimental nicotine vaccine, this article explores the ethical aspects of 'lifestyle vaccines' for public health. Based on findings from a qualitative study into a vaccine for smoking cessation, the article articulates possible value conflicts related to nicotine vaccination as an intervention in tobacco control. The 'vaccinization' of lifestyle disease piggybacks on the achievements of classic vaccines. Contrary to expectations of simplicity and success, quitting smoking with a vaccine requires a complex supportive network. Social justice and public trust may become important ethical challenges when deciding whether to use further public funds for research or whether to implement these innovative vaccines in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-197
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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