Ethics (sometimes known as moral philosophy) itself is not easily defined and philosophers provide differing explanations of it. It is certainly a subject that is used in discussions about how we should live, what is right and wrong and what we mean when we use words like right and wrong, good and bad. However, it must be remembered that Plato put the question of is there an ultimate answer of what is good or the right thing to do. 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. Tobacco Companies actively market a highly addictive and lethal product, and have done so for many years here in the United Kingdom and abroad.
Their lack of ethics and social responsibility in the business world are apparent in documentations brought to light during lawsuits against them in recent years. The desire for profit and expansion, rather than a concern for societal health, has dictated big tobacco company operations.These wealthy world powers continue to exercise unethical business practices in their approach to conducting business at a great communal and economic cost to societies worldwide.
Ethics could be defined as a collection of moral principles and values regarding right and wrong that control individual and group behaviour. Standards for ethical behaviour and decisions arise from those moral principles and values. An individual or group may benefit or harm others in society. Human behaviour may be categorised in one of three ways: codified law, free choice, or ethics. Laws enforced by the government provide values and standards society must obey.
Free choice exists at the other end of the spectrum and provides complete freedom to pursue self-interests. No laws restrict free choice behaviours. Ethics occupies the zone between codified law and free choice. Society has shared beliefs and values used to dictate acceptable behaviour. Ethical decisions are legally and morally approved by society Tobacco companies produce a product for society’s desire and they make a profit in doing so. They also satisfy legal responsibilities and obey laws although their political influence has frequently slanted the government process in their favour financially.
Problems arise for tobacco companies when only law or free choice controls decision-making. Although producing and selling tobacco is legal, the business is not automatically ethical and does not benefit society as a whole. The positive effects of jobs within the tobacco industry are outweighed by the negative social, health, and economic costs to society. Currently, some tobacco companies are exercising discretionary responsibility by voluntary social contributions such as providing food, water, and other supplies to flood victims after recent hurricanes.This is the highest level of social responsibility and goes beyond society’s expectations of the company and is often refer to as the charity principle. The true motivation however is more likely to improve their reputation rather than pure generosity. Legal action against tobacco companies left them with tarnished reputations. The tobacco companies have placed economic gain as the number one goal over social responsibility and have ignored the role of ethics in their business practices.
Business has allowed corruption in the workplace.Competition is the essence of business. Winning is more important than how the game is played and the reward for tobacco companies is financial and financial alone (Friedman 1962). Managers understand right and wrong in their personal life, but do not feel it applies to business practice. Generally people make an ethical decision when going to work for a company, then leave the ethical decisions to the company. This whole argument that the tobacco companies are unethical in the way they do business is grounded in the utilitarian moral doctrine.
This states that “we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by our action. ” By good, Utilitarian’s mean happiness or pleasure. This is obviously the case. For example, thousands of people are positively affected in the tobacco industry: lawyers, employees, executives, farmers, and the receivers of the taxes placed on the product. To these people, tobacco and cigarettes bring much pleasure, from money, to a job, to a way to relax, and not just to them, but to those around these people who are affected by their lives.Many people benefit from its existence.
However, many millions of people die every year from smoking. It kills more than 120,000 people every year in the UK alone. And many millions more are affected by the illnesses, deaths, and addictions of these people, it is a huge ripple effect. So while thousands, and it is probably hundreds of thousands benefit, millions suffer. This is the main reason that the way in which the tobacco companies do business is shockingly unethical.
To put it even more simply, many times more people become unhappy when encountering cigarettes and tobacco than become happy.When looking at advertising in our case study the questions raised were not so much about the content of the adverts but more about whether advertising for tobacco should be allowed at all. Subjective theorists would argue that there is no objective right answer to a moral dilemma: it is up to the individual to choose among options, none of which are intrinsically right or wrong. They would also point out the fact that we live in a democratic society that’s based on freedom; hence customers should be informed about the choices open to them and whether they wish to smoke or not.Desires may not originate from the individual but choices are free” (Hayek). Advertising is argued to educate and inform the consumers who ultimately make their own subjective choice. It is argued that tobacco companies do not try to make people start smoking but want to encourage current smokers to change brands. However it believe that almost 70% of smokers want to quit jet are unable to do so.
How can they justify freewill when there consumer can not give up when they wish to. We are supposed to be living in a free economy, the invisible hand (Adams) will ensure that consumers are protected.The company will go out of business if the consumer wishes it they simply have to stop buying the product and the firm will not be able to survive. Beauchamp argued that any form of advertisement can manipulate information and deceive customers. However, Carr argued that advertisement after all is only a “deception and is accepted in advertising and it’s just a game” It can also be argued that the consequences of tobacco are bad (teleological approach) as it leads to death & disease and the intent of the tobacco companies (de-ontological) is purely to make money so how can advertising the product be right and ethical thing?Foreign Direct Investment may benefit developed countries but in the Third World it can lead to dependence this is the case with many tobacco that operate in third world countries and allows them to get away with many unethical issues, and in some cases even changing legalisation. Conclusion Most of the theories used in the course were of some relevance & help when it came to understanding the case study surrounding Tobacco & advertising. When researching the case it was useful to look at a range of theories in order to draw out both the good and bad.
However when applying theories it is possible to come up with a different answer or perspective with each theory that is used depending on one perception. I found that Subjectivism offer the only real answer as to whether or not tobacco companies like British American Tobacco were in the wrong to advertise their products and thus deemed to be unethical. The fact that moral decisions are made by the individual allows for change and diversity in society. The use of these theories have greatly aided my understanding of management ethics and have made me think harder before making important decisions.