There are several ethical issues raised in the issue of curbing and restricting the advertisement of tobacco. According to the World Conference on Tobacco and Health, tobacco is the only consumer product that has killed more than half of its regular users and is responsible for about 5 million deaths worldwide annually.
Although the health risks associated with smoking are known and well documented, the consumption of tobacco products increases daily. The main tobacco related death is due to lung cancer (Chapman, 1996).
However, tobacco producers have been operating for a long time despite the continuous conflicts with the public health sector. The main ethical issue in this case is the situation where profitability is more important to companies than the lives of its customers.
The initiate proposed aims to protect young people from indulging in cigarette smoking at an early age. On the other hand, the firms should be free to market and sell legal products with out interference from other bodies. Should the bill be passed, the firms’ marketing activities and profitability will be affected (Chapman, 1996).
In the 1950s, tobacco companies signed an agreement that they will consider public, safety and health of their consumers as their main goal. These same companies have now used their political and economic influence to prevent the enactment of meaningful and fair laws by that would see a proper structure govern how tobacco is produced, sold, labeled and even advertised. In the event that a restrictive law that does not favor the tobacco industry, it is faced with heavy of opposition especially from those parties that have a stake in the companies (Eissenberg, 2006).
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seems to be at the back of the protagonists minds. CSR involves accounting for and redressing the influences of a company on the society. It would be erroneous to state that tobacco producing firms that are fighting this bill are good corporate citizens. There stand is unethical as it is bound to affect the society negatively (Elders, 1994).
Tobacco provides high revenues to the government, in form of tax and other tariffs. In addition, this industry is one of the biggest employers and supporter of the tobacco farmers while contributing to the firms GDP. Consequently, the government is caught in between protecting its citizens from the effects of tobacco consumption and the revenue it collects from the tobacco-manufacturing firms.
That may explain why there had been a general laxity in the government to deal with this menace once and for all. Reforms have been slow to implement all the while, people are dying of an otherwise preventable cause (Chapman, 1996).
It’s also evident that the tobacco industry is very large and some of the market players are willing to spend millions of dollars on legal cases. The production, development and marketing of tobacco and tobacco products remain a multibillion-dollar industry.
Tens of thousands of people are dependent on the production, processing, manufacture, sale, distribution and marketing of tobacco and tobacco products. This has caused companies like Brown and Williams to seek legal action anytime there is a restrictive policy for the advertisement of tobacco products.
Most of these corporations have a tendency of misinforming the consumers on the dangers associated with tobacco consumption. They normally present their product to the consumer as either classy or stylish so as to attract the young people and the middle class. However, the negative health effects that are associated with smoking are omitted thus creating a misinformed public (Chapman, 1996).
The tobacco manufacturers are probably the main stakeholders who are affected by the tobacco legislation. According to Tobacco Atlas, tobacco production has nearly doubled since the 1960’s, totaling almost 6.5 million metric tons in 2004. For example, it is noted that in developing countries, increasing demand and favorable policies have resulted in a high increase in production, while production has declined by more than 50% in developed countries (Moore, 2004).
If this trend persists as projected in 2010, more than 85 percent of the world’s tobacco will be planted in the developing countries. With an increased number of cigarette smokers among the youth and the middle class, they present a ready market for the tobacco industry.
Most consumers start using tobacco due to the attractive adverts that portray smoking to be cool and classy. Once the consumption begins, the effect of nicotine becomes a reality making it difficult for the consumer to quit due to its addictive effect (Moore, 2004).
The second stakeholder in this issue is the policy makers and government. There are the main beneficiaries from tobacco manufacturing companies. There are major benefits from tax and other forms of income they get from the tobacco companies. For years, tobacco policy in the United States has been aligned to the interests of the tobacco industry and its allies (Elders, 1994).
In recent years, few, if any, real substantive hearings have been held on tobacco in spite of the overwhelming impact that tobacco has on the health of the nation including expenditures for health care costs. With this bold move by congress to restrict tobacco advertisement, it’s a win loose situation with the policy makers having to take less than they normally do due to the decrease of consumption (Marlin, 2002).
I fully agree to all the restrictions that have been proposed. All measures to reduce tobacco consumption should be embraced. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to tobacco advertising as they strive for autonomy and social acceptance, and work toward an identity of their own.
Young people evaluate advertising messages indirectly with their emotions as opposed to making a logical analysis of its content. The billions of dollars spent on advertising by the tobacco industry have bore fruit with the teenagers (Bradburn, 2001).
Advertisements by smoking companies include billboards, posters and television. However, the firms seem to prefer outdoor advertisement since this medium can reach the young people. According to research, tobacco advertising contributes largely to non-smokers trying out the product for the first time.
They usually do not know the health problems they risk getting. It is imperative that this legislation against smoking be upheld particularly for the sake of the youth and non-smokers who not knowing the implication involved might be tempted to try the product. Increasing availability of information concerning the health effects of smoking is beneficial (Bradburn, 2001).
For alcohol and fatty foods, a workable mechanism ought to be institute by the policy makers to ensure that the consumers of these products understand the risks involved in their consumption. Alcohol has and will remain a product that has an untapped market niche. Most consumers of alcohol do so for enjoyment or after work just to relax.
This should be a personal choice on whether to indulge in liquor consumption but under aged drinking and over consumption should be discouraged. People who have seen all the health risk involved should now make rational decisions on whether to take them or not. Otherwise, even without advertising, there will always be a ready market for alcohol and fatty foods (Moore, 2004).
However, there should be restrictions on whom some of the advertisements target as well as discouraging over consumption or underage drinking. The concern state officials such as the ministry of health should stress the need for health eating. Unfortunately, restricting the advertisement for these products will not be useful the in the long run. People who are aware of the need for proper eating of balanced diets from massive awareness programs will not consume fatty foods (Moore, 2004).
It is unethical for the advertising industry to lobby against the proposed restrictions. The firms are well aware of the consequences of their actions but they are not concerned with the health effects of their products.
It is clear that the advertising firms felt short changed by not getting enough funds from the restrictive tobacco advertisement. With all the risk implications that are involved with cigarettes smoking, the advertising firms and the tobacco manufacturers have only their economic interest at heart not bothering about what happens to the consumers (Chapman, 1996).
The state on the other hand should push forward with this strict advertisement restriction for tobacco products. Financial gains should not count when consumers are faced with the risk of getting fatal health problems by consuming certain products. If relevant information on health matters is available, a well informed customer will make a good choice. They will not merely rely on advertisements (Elders, 1994).
Bradburn, R. (2001). Understanding business ethics. London: Cengage Learning EMEA.
Chapman, S. (1996). The ethics of tobacco advertising and advertising bans. British Medical Bulletin, 52, 121-131.
Eissenberg, T. (2006). The time for tobacco industry sponsored PREP evaluation has arrived, Tobacco Control, 15, 1-2.
Elders, J. (1994). Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General. New York: DIANE Publishing.
Marlin, R. (2002). Propaganda and the ethics of persuasion. Ontario: Broadview Press.
Moore, C. (2004). Ethics in Advertising. Retrieved November 9, 2009, from http://www.aef.com/on_campus/classroom/speaker_pres/data/3001