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July 11, 1980

Voluntary Risks to Health

Author Affiliations

Riverside Family Practice Center Toledo, Ohio

JAMA. 1980;244(2):134. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310020016010

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To the Editor.—  The article by Robert M. Veatch, PhD (243:50, 1980), provides a useful conceptual framework for determining the relative responsibilities of the individual, the physician, and society at large in dealing with voluntary risks to health. Social theories are created to explain human behavior that is, to a great extent, amorphous. Theories have value to the extent that they help guide rational thinking and action, but they should not be accepted as dogma or accorded such stature that they get in the way of problem solving.In the case of cigarette smoking, each of the models suggested by Veatch is useful. As he suggests, they should be thought of not as mutually exclusive, but as components of an overall framework. The voluntary model says that people can decide not to smoke, and many have done so. The medical model says that physicians should stress the health hazards of