An ethical debate for two issues: International sex traffic and terminating employees who smoke at home.

Spring 2008

The question of traditional ethics being possible in policy making in a post-modern society is much discussed today among policy makers. Ethics are defined as rules, whether written or culturally in existence that are supposed to guide human actions. Ethics is necessary to study because it helps to understand controversial issues such as sex trafficking and smoking rights- comprehending ethics helps to make consistent decisions and improve policy analyses. Here the discussion of these two ethical dilemmas- international sex traffic and banning smokers from the office- will take place.

It is estimated that there are 600,000 to 800,000 sex slaves worldwide, mostly women, and almost half being minors. In the United States alone there are almost 50,000 sex slaves. As the show titled Sex Slaves by Frontline presents, these thousands of women are kidnapped and sent to Europe, the Middle East, the U.S. and other parts of the globe, and in the process  they may be drugged, terrorized, sold to pimps, locked away in brothels, and raped repeatedly. International sex traffic is one of the most difficult issues to tackle because it involves various parties, ethical dilemmas, and a basic lack of information. Corruption and international protections are some of the many issues that make catching participants like pimps, middlemen, and traffickers who illegally buy and sell women difficult. We question, how can the government allow the global sex trade to continue when they know that it is going on?

Global sex trade raises many related issues like sexual abuse, domestic violence, black market criminal activities, health disparities, corruption, cultural barriers, poverty, and weak international organizations. These are obstacles that vary in degree from place to place but are all related when it comes to international sex trafficking which deals with some of the most helpless members of society. As Sex Slaves presents, in sex trade, women are commodities and are in desperate need of the financial “support” that comes with it, as flawed and minute as it may be. It is definitely a matter that illustrates ethical and economies realities of helpless victims and their families.

It is difficult to control this issue mainly because it is an international problem. For example, there is a general indifference towards women not in our cultural frame when we have “our own” to think about. It is also linked to poor border control and immigration policies which in itself is an entirely different and difficult public policy issue in the United States. Also, the general view of prostitution and sex a taboo one where we know it exists but are also not as informed about the degree of its problem, and therefore, not discused. Further, global sex trade is part of the underground world, and most people do not meet sex slaves and therefore are not directly affected. With all of these problems and rebuttals in mind, international sex trade is a serious ethical dilemma that forces policy makers to look beyond the human exploitation factor.

Another example of an ethical dilemma is the issue of terminating employees who smoke outside of the workplace. While one may not smoke, he or she can still be subject to second hand smoking when around smokers, and this has been proven to cause health hazards, such as heart disease and respiratory ailments. The workplace can be an area where one can be exposed to second hand smoke; this is especially common in restaurants, bars, and other hospitality venues. A common action taken by business and the state to limit this is to prohibit smoking inside or near these areas like restaurants, schools, etc., creating smoke-free zones. These actions have taken place in 27 states today. Another more radical step has been to actually ban smokers from work, even if it is on their own time, like at home. Union Pacific Corp. is once such company that now rejects smoker’s applications in various states that they are based on, including Texas, Arizona, and Kansas; the public affairs director John Bromley stated that this move will save the company a lot of costs annually for each position filled by a nonsmoker (Michigan Daily, February 3, 2005). These completely smoke-free working areas are supposed to protect workers and create an environment that also encourages smokers to quit, as well as save companies funds.

The opposing view of this move is the argument that smoking is a private matter, and thus creating such laws invade personal rights. These moves taken by various companies today have raised alarm among privacy and worker’s rights advocates. There are twenty states today that have no laws preventing employers from firing workers who smoke even when they are not at work. While it is clear that smoking is unhealthy, it is still a choice, and the question of ethics comes into play. Civil liberty organizations inquiry this behavior, and raise the question of what other personal choices could be banned next. They ague that unless workers are engaging in behavior outside of work that interferes with work, employers have no right to limit their behavior outside of the workplace. And smoking, as well as other choices like alcohol is not illegal in the United States, so while it does have unhealthy consequences, they are still personal choices that should not prevent users from employment. It is argued that this is a controlling behavior that once installed, it will allow employers to go even further into personal choices and rights in the future.

In conclusion, the issue of completely smoke free zone creates confusion between its moral and legal arguments. This type of ban plays on political ethics, or policy making judgments about people’s lives, and making decisions for them that they may never meet. It is a clear example of an ethical dilemma in which policy makers are forced to look at what may be for the general good but may interfere with personal liberty and rights.

Ethical quandaries are difficult to address in policy making today, in a post-modern society. We are forced to look at our ethical responsibilities, and the boundaries between something that is both a moral and a legal issue. Symbolic actions, like not allowing smokers employment are symbolic actions with political and moral consequences. Ethical dilemmas also raise the question of who can decide for the public what norms are, especially for future generations. What is the ultimate good, and what are the boundaries of ethics today, and how do we justify something like sex traffic that is seen as necessary in other cultures- these are some of the many crucial questions that makes policy making difficult for issues that are both private and carry public consequences.

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