Tobacco has been a highly discussed and controversial topic for many years now. While it has been almost fifty years since the dangers of cigarette smoking were first discovered, it seems as though with each passing day that new information is being discovered or divulged as the case may be. Is this emergence of “new” information going to just lead to more “warning labels”, or are manufacturers going to be held accountable for knowingly marketing, distributing, and selling a proven dangerous product?
Since 1965, when manufacturers were mandated to put warnings on cigarette packages, the tobacco companies, in my opinion, have not willingly agreed to inform the public of the potential dangers of their product.
If anything, they have continued to suck in more susceptible customers by purposely manipulating the nicotine levels in the cigarettes they produce to increase the demand for their product. It has only been through the courts that tobacco companies have slowly begun to admit what they have potentially known for years. That is, as recently announced by Phillip Morris, that smoking is addictive and can cause serious health problems. Why then are they continuing to push their dangerous product? Although it can be said that the hazards of smoking are more publicized today than in earlier years, and if someone begins to smoke they are doing so at their own risk, I object to the way that tobacco industries market their product. In 1998, Liggett acknowledged that the tobacco industry targets people under the age of eighteen as potential users of their product.
This is a blatant disregard to our national laws on the approved age for those legally able to buy tobacco and tobacco related products. While I understand the need or desire for tobacco companies to pull in new customers, so that they can flourish as a company, I find their tactics to be unethical. It has been found that the dangers of smoking are more prevalent if you begin doing so at a young age. I began smoking when I was a teenager, and if I had to do it again, I would have never picked up the addictive habit. While I do not recall any underage marketing ploys being directed towards me at that time, perhaps there were and that is what has me smoking today.
In addition, if you take a look at any cigarette advertisement in a magazine of your choice, the scenario depicted is usually very appealing. For example, in a Parliament Lights advertisement, there was a couple standing by a pool that happened to be overlooking out into the ocean. The predominant colors were blue and white and everything looked so calm, clean and relaxing. These are definitely not the three adjectives of choice that I would use to describe cigarettes or any other tobacco related product, but this is how the tobacco industry wants people to view their products. Isn’t this some form of false advertisement? I believe that no matter what product a company is making, they have an obligation to their current and potential consumers to disclose any data that an individual would need or want in order to make an educated decision on whether or not to buy or use that product. We as consumers expect this from other such companies, so why have companies in the tobacco industry been able to slip through the loop? With the onslaught of tobacco litigation, it seems as though the time has come for the tobacco industry to pay the piper.
While I think it would be unethical for tobacco companies to be forced out of business, I do believe that there needs to be a vast improvement in the governmental regulation of such industries. There are strict regulations of health care products (i.e. pharmaceuticals), which are being produced to potentially improve the health of people. However, the tobacco industry is putting out products that clearly damage the health of people, yet they undergo more lenient standards.
Since it is apparent that the tobacco industry has no intention of discontinuing the production of their tobacco products or their marketing tactics, it is up to us as society to put a stop to their unethical ways once and for all. I believe the start is to begin at the governmental level with more regulation on the actual production of tobacco products, more labels and required disclosures of nicotine levels, as well as more stringent fines even down to the convenience stores that sell the products to underage patrons. We must unite and make a whole-hearted effort to curb the freedoms that the tobacco industry has had for far too long.