Katie Simer Professor M. Harutunian English 101 21 September 2011 The Ethics of Tobacco Advertising Can one limit what is advertised? Who is to say whether cigarette advertising is ethical? There have been many bans on tobacco advertising. There is a notion that advertising cigarettes is unethical because society has claimed it to be. Smoking has been one of the biggest parts of advertising for decades. Doctors would promote certain cigarettes. Many believed cigarette smoking to be a way to relieve the stress of a long and stressful day at work. Today, many people view smoking as a form of suicide.
It is a well-known fact that many people die from diseases that are caused by smoking. It is unethical to advertise tobacco use because smoking is unhealthy and expensive, children pay attention to advertising, and tobacco advertising lies. Smoking can kill. “Every year 350,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses. Smoking is directly responsible for 85% of all deaths from lung cancer. The Surgeon General has declared smoking the chief avoidable cause of death in our society” (Andre and Velasquez 2). Cigarette smoke can cause the build up of tar in lungs.
Nicotine that is found in cigarettes is highly addictive. Promoting a product that can kill is wrong. Tobacco advertising was banned from television in 1971. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry did not hurt from the ban. Marlboro came out virtually unscathed. Their incredible print advertisements with “[…] the image of cowboys smoking cigarettes retained its power and sales continued to grow for Marlboro” (Carlson and Luhrs 2). This is an addiction that is not cheap. Cigarettes continue to become more and more expensive. Taxes on cigarettes are through the roof.
The taxing will continue to increase until people eventually stop buying cigarettes. “The CDC said Tuesday that the smoking rate in adults declined from 20. 9% in 2005 to 19. 3% in 2010 but called for higher prices of tobacco products because they are part of an effective strategy known to be successful in reducing cigarette smoking” (Medical Daily 2). It is not ethically right to continue to market an item that will keep going up in price even though the economy has spiraled out of control. Companies should not be able to sell an expensive product that is addictive.
The health care costs for a smoker greatly increase if a smoking-related disease is developed. Andre and Velasquez stated, “According to a recent government report, cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated $23 billion in health care costs annually and over $30 billion in lost productivity. Furthermore, cigarettes are the leading cause of residential fires and fire deaths in this nation” (4). Advertising a product that costs people so much money and causes even more harm is just wrong. The American Cancer Society says that “smoking-related medical costs averaged more than $100 billion each year between 2000 and 2004.
This translates to $2,247 in extra medical expenses for each adult smoker per year as of 2004” (American Cancer Society 3). These outcomes are never mentioned in advertising. Tragedies that are caused by smoking are only mentioned after they have already occurred. A discontinuation of tobacco advertisements would keep many of these horrible situations from happening. Children are extremely impressionable. A child can look at an ad in their mother or father’s magazine and decide that they will not be able to survive without that product.
If a child was to view an advertisement for a tobacco product that made smoking look like it was tons of fun, they may develop a desire to experiment with them. “Whether tobacco companies are purposely targeting young smokers or are inadvertently asserting their influence, the fact remains that tobacco marketing is affecting the youth population” (Carlson and Luhrs 13). Youth will always have a yearning for acceptance. Most cigarette brands promote a lifestyle where a person can be surrounded by others because they all smoke together.
Smoking is largely viewed as a social habit—people smoke at parties, with friends, and is even seen as a way to meet others. Why would a young person not want to start smoking? According to advertising, it is supposed to give them everything they want. Most smokers started their cigarette addictions when they were only minors. Tobacco companies are fully aware of this and rely on it for better sales. “To maintain sales, the tobacco industry must recruit more than 2 million people every year to replace those who die and those who quit smoking.
Since 90% of beginning smokers are children or teenagers, this means that the industry must entice at least 5000 youngsters daily to take up smoking” (Andre and Velasquez 7). This means that advertising smoking towards minors is crucial to keeping these companies in business. They could not survive without underage smokers. Luring children to smoke is beyond unethical. No company should be allowed to entice kids into an addictive habit that kills every day. There is no such thing as honest advertising. Advertisers are constantly bending the truth. Manipulation is second nature to anyone who works in that field.
If advertisers are willing to lie about everyday products that do not cause any harm at all, then they will also have no problem with lying about cigarettes. “While they have not outwardly lied in every instance, the industry has time and time again construed truths into self-fulfilling ends. In an attempt to gain a positive public image, ‘a tobacco company once gave $125 thousand worth of food to a charity’, according to an estimate by the Wall Street Journal. Then, ‘they spent well over $21 million telling people about it’” (Carlson and Luhrs 17).
The fabrication of tobacco companies being generous and charitable is a large manipulation of the truth. They will do absolutely anything to sell their product and do not even give ethics a second thought. These companies are continuously trying to fool consumers into buying a product that is dangerous. If it were not a legal obligation to have the surgeon general’s warning on the package and advertisements, they would do away with it. Tobacco advertisers have one goal: sell a product. They have no ethic code that keeps them honest. Advertising with jump through as many hoops necessary in order to gain the outcome that they desire.
Many advertisements have wording that makes cigarettes sound healthier than they actually are. “In a seven-year racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which ended on August 17, 2006, U. S. District Judge Gladys Kessler imposed a requirement for tobacco companies to make corrective statements concerning their products. In accordance to her ruling, the defendants must discontinue the use of the terms, ‘low tar,’ ‘light,’ ‘ultra light,’ ‘mild,’ and ‘natural’ in regards to any of their products in the absence of there being any significant health benefits associated with them. …] While Kessler’s ruling is a step toward curbing tobacco marketing, it is almost fact that Big Tobacco will continue with its deceitful marketing tactics, its manipulation of truths, and its outward lies to the public” (Carlson and Luhrs 18). These devious words that make consumers think they are being healthier have actually ended up costing people their lives. This lawsuit was a great step to keeping advertisers from lying to the public about the health risks that go hand in hand with smoking. Regrettably, there are still many more ways for advertisers to convince people to smoke.
They are so cunning that people rarely notice when a fallacy is right in their faces. It is impossible to escape advertising. A person could be walking down the street and be bombarded with advertisements. “No choice exists, from the consumer’s perspective, as to whether one is influenced by the continuous stream of advertisements, promotional messages and countless other forms of modern-day marketing. If only on a subconscious level, consumers are vaguely aware of the various brands and products that they are subjected to on daily basis” (Carlson and Luhrs 9).
A person has to constantly be completely aware of all the messages bombarding them at once. Tobacco advertisers use this to their advantage. They know how hard it is to question information when it is coming at you a mile a minute. These advertising agencies rely on the fact that one will not be able to process the overload of information. Advertising the use of cigarettes is wrong because smoking can cause many illnesses and financial problems, the youth can be heavily and easily persuaded, and they can be incredibly deceitful. If tobacco companies were no longer allowed to advertise, the amount of smokers would greatly decrease.
Many lives could be saved and people would be able to save so much money. The harmful effects that cigarettes have on everyone could be virtually extinct. That is not to say that all smoking would be stopped. Smoking would not be illegal, so many people would still have the option of smoking if they desired. A ban on all tobacco advertisements would be a smarter choice than making smoking illegal because no large black market for cigarettes would be created. The government would also still be able to tax cigarettes. It would just lead to so many fewer children and susceptible adults picking up the unhealthy habit.
The most important thing is to make sure that people know the truth and are not being fooled with advertisers’ lies. Works Cited Andre, Claire, and Manuel Velasquez. “Morality and Marketing the Marlboro Man. ” Santa Clara University. Santa Clara University. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. scu. edu/ethics/publications/iie/v1n4/marlboro. html>. Carlson, Michael, and Chris Luhrs. The Ethics of Tobacco Marketing. Rep. Ethica Publishing. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. ethicapublishing. com/confronting/5CH9. pdf>. “How Does Tobacco Use Affect the Economy? American Cancer Society: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms. American Cancer Society, 27 June 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. cancer. org/Cancer/CancerCauses/TobaccoCancer/QuestionsaboutSmokingTobaccoandHealth/questions-about-smoking-tobacco-and-health-tob-and-economy>. “Medical Daily: CDC Urges Increase Price of Tobacco Products. ” Medical Daily : Daily Medical News and Health News. Medical Daily, 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. medicaldaily. com/news/20110906/7112/smoking-usa-tobacco-prices. htm>.