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The Question on Public Policy Debate

For decades, the question on “what is public policy?” has been the subject of fundamental conceptual discussions as illustrated in public policy and in governance. Almost every aspect of our lives gets affected by public policy be it economically, socially, or culturally. Often, the public policy takes place when the government tries to give a solution to a public issue, including aspects like healthcare, education, and crimes, among many others. As I look at two conceptual debates of two different views, I will discuss a current empirical case that will help in understanding the question of public policy as well as state the problem to bring relevance in this present discussion.

The Debate

There has been an existing debate between two authors; Christopher Knill and Deborah Stone concerning on “what is the public policy?” Stone starts her arguments with a statement that “a theory of policy politics must start with a model of political society, that is, a model of the simplest version of society that retains the essential elements of politics” (1997, p12). Here, Stone uses the model of the market as a foil due to its preponderance in the policy details. According to Stone (1997), a market is a social system where people pursue their own welfare by trading for mutual benefits. The participants are always in opposition with one another for inadequate resources where one tries to gain things at the least probable price. This model of the market act to maximize the interest of individuals hence stimulating their own resourceful and productive nature. In digging deeper, Stone looks at the community model to contrast his argument on public policy. According to Stone, politics, and policy only takes place in communities which is the starting point of the polis. Stone asserts that “public policy is about communities trying to achieve something as a community” (1997, p23). With these, it can be true whenever there is a rival on what objectives should be and who the community members are which is unlike the market model which deals with people and has no objectives. Stone continues to define what public policy is by further discussing what a political and cultural community is.

Contrary, Christopher Knill states that public policy is the attempt of the government in addressing public issues or challenges by instituting laws, regulations or deeds that are pertinent to the challenge at hand. Knill defines public policy on the basis of policy outputs, outcomes and impacts hence bringing a contrary discussion that is different from that of Deborah Stone. According to Knill, policy output is the content of public policy that refers to the underlying paradigms and instruments used by the concerned policy (Knill & Tosun, 2012). Policy outcomes are the impacts of the public policy due to behavior changes of the target group while policy impacts are the impacts of the public policy of challenges resolution. To bring up his argument, Knill first introduces various public policy models and to the adjusting nature of the policy process. Knill evaluates various public policy major approaches and methods to illustrate how they are used in informing the choices of the policy. Unlike Stone who look at public policy at the community level, Knill looks at the public policy at the government level and study on what it does and the differences it brings either directly or indirectly.

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Current Case

The current case on public policy concerns the modern UK tobacco policy. Today, the policy is one of the most restrictive policies in the world. Over the past years, the government has been introducing a large number of policy instruments to empower a critical reduction of smoking in the community. Some of the actions taken include legislation in banning of smoking in open places, limitation in adverts and promotion of smoking, high taxes on products of tobacco, and strict regulations concerning packaging of cigarettes (Borland et al., 2004). However, since the post-war period in the beginning of 1980s, the policy has been changing radically though not until 2000s that the UK become the most restrictive country in cementing its place. The legislation of tobacco adverts was enforced in 2002 followed by 2010 legislation banning smoking in public places. Tavernise (2016) writes that there is a new call to persuade smokers to consider E-cigarettes as an alternative to the traditional cigarettes considered to be more harmful to human life. Other policies on packaging and use of cigarettes have been proposed and implemented in a bid to curb the unending tobacco use menace across the world. In particular, there are various convergence initiative policies have been initiated in a ban on smoking in UK. The first step taken was for the scientific research to prove the deadly addictive impacts of tobacco beyond the capability for the industry of tobacco to deny. The evidence provided showed that the environmental smoke was more than an infuriation as being so lethal for thousands of nonsmokers like causing various respiratory illnesses to kids and young adults. Another evidence was the drastic drop in economic due to the usage of tobacco especially when it comes to treatment of tobacco-related illness and reduction of productivity in the life of workers. Since the recognition of tobacco smoking has been seen as a deadly risk to both smoker and non-smoker, it has led to efforts of restraining and controlling smoking by enhancing regulatory actions policies that make it easy for reduction of smoking.

Problem Definition

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Considering our current issue of tobacco policy in the UK, one might look at the issue as a policy environment that is shaped by policymakers for the sake of the community and also as a political choice of the government in restricting the use of tobacco use. This relates to a decision of policymakers in framing tobacco as a public health epidemic that requires a major response of the government and not primarily as a good or issue of civil liberties (Tavernise, 2016). The government needs to place the department or organization of health at the heart of the policy growth from connection with clinical and public health to greater public support for reduction, regulation of smoke prevalence and the diminishing economic tobacco value.

The discussion can continue conceptually with further exploration of policy theory like drawing from a punctured equilibrium theory so as to assist in illustrating shifts of policymaker in tobacco attention since the 1980s to date. This can be done by looking at how coalitions of pro-tobacco can help in slowing down policy adjustments by interpreting new scientific evidence via the lens of well-established approaches such as advancement on ventilation or filter tips in significant restriction of smoking. Multiple streams analysis can be done to be able to identify window opportunity for change so as to minimize the greater challenge that is facing the country to date (El-Toukhy & Choi, 2016). From the community model of Deborah Stone to government model of Christopher Knill, scientifically based reports that have been emerging from tobacco usage among individuals should pave a way in the creation of tobacco policy for the sake and benefit of the individuals in the community as well as the whole nation. Organized campaigns can be included to help in the implementation of a broad spectrum of tobacco policies like price regulations and restrictions of tobacco adverts that promote tobacco usage. Promotional campaigns that give detailed education on health information to the public should be placed in the policies so as to ensure that the products of tobacco have limited users in the community.


Borland, R., Yong, H.H., King, B., Cummings, K.M., Fong, G.T., Elton-Marshall, T., Hammond, D. and McNeill, A., 2004. Use of and beliefs about light cigarettes in four countries: findings from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Survey. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 6(Suppl_3), pp.S311-S321.

El-Toukhy, S.M., and Choi, K., 2016. Magazine hyped: Trends in tobacco advertising and readership characteristics, 2010–2014. Preventive medicine, 91, pp.132-137.

Knill, C. and Tosun, J., 2012. Public policy: A new introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

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Stone, D.A., 1997. Policy paradox: The art of political decision making (Vol. 13). New York: WW Norton.

Tavernise, S., 2016. Smokers urged to switch to E-cigarettes by British Medical Group. New York Times28.

The Question on Public Policy Debate