Tobacco use is one of the most deeply ingrained and consistently troubling public health concerns facing the world today. A substance with inextricable ties to commerce, culture and lifestyle, tobacco continues to invoke a set of mixed emotions amongst those engaged in the discourse over the hazards which it represents to health, environment and productivity.
In this complex web of responses, it is important to consider tobacco with a critical speculation which evaluates both its negative impact on the health of its consumers and on its economic value to such tobacco producing nations as the United States. . This investigation will ultimately touch upon a wide variance of issues correlated to the fact that a product now evidenced beyond a reasonable doubt to be directly contributory to the fatality of its users remains what some consider to be a lynchpin of the American economy.
This discussion therefore touches upon the health concerns related to smoking, some of the advertising principals which drive questions of ethicality in the tobacco agenda and, on the other end of the spectrum, the account will refer to such issues as smoker’s rights and the economic value of the tobacco market. Nicotine addiction, itself a disease with extremely oppressive powers over the afflicted, is also a leading cause of high blood-pressure, heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema. In each is reflected a crucial point of concern to members of every race, class and ethnicity.
Such is to say that tobacco use stands as one of the most dominant prejudices in the determinant of said conditions. The health concerns therefore related to smoking will tend to dominate any discourse on the subject. According to statistics compiled and sponsored by the T. J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow, Kentucky and most recently updated in the spring of 2006, habitual smokers of cigarettes are “fourteen times as likely to die of lung cancer” and twice as susceptible to fatality by heart disease.
This means, according to the Community Hospital, that an individual addicted to cigarettes has a 50% chance of premature fatality due to said addiction. And indeed, the recently celebrated settlements in which the tobacco industry as a whole was found civilly guilty for contributing to said hazard are demonstrative of a reigning consensus as to the dangers inherent in smoking as well as the perception of liability for its purveyors.
However, these very temporal court ordered penalties pale in comparison to the prospects represented by a population committed to its products through addiction. This latter point alludes to the ethical issue at hand in the discussion regarding the marketing of cigarettes and endorsement of smoking. Cigarette advertisements are inherently designed to attract new smokers, a feature dually attributed to the reduced need to court those already physically addicted to its product and the natural economic consequence of offering a product with a uniquely high fatality rate.
This is a subtext which informs the premise explored here, that the diversionary tactic channeled through such smoking archetypes as Joe Camel, The Marlboro Man and the glamorous individuals otherwise depicted would represent an approach to advertising that, in its failure to accurately reflect the true nature of its product, is fundamentally dishonest, and thus, unethical from the standpoint of responsibility in advertising.
Primarily, the fact that cigarettes are advertised in accordance with many of the same standards used to sell benign consumer items while still representing the known public health dangers discussed here above suggest that some dishonesty or deception has taken place in the image projected of the product. Indeed, this is not to suggest that efforts have not been taken to disseminate information to the public regarding the dangers of cigarette use.
Instead, it is to suggest that the twin forces of an ingrained imagistic popularity and sheer addiction have generally proved more powerful than efforts to dissuade new users or to alter the habits of long-time users. Though the Surgeon General’s Warning has been applied by mandate to all products sold by the Tobacco Industry for several decades, an estimated “twelve million Americans have died from smoking since 1964, according to the U. S. urgeon general” (Carrier, 1) It is apparent that one of the greatest drawbacks to smoking and the smoking industry in general is its market orientation, which tends to obscure even the explicit warning printing on the cigarette pack behind an effective and familiar image or product identity. The Marlboro Man would essentially be the most popular and persistent of the model images utilized throughout the early 20th century to invoke such an effect.
The Marlboro Man would be built on a tradition already in place, of defining the product according to its implications of masculinity. “In 1917, World War I started. Cigarette companies used pictures of soldiers smoking cigarettes in their advertising. Many people viewed soldiers as heroes. When they saw the soldiers smoking, they started smoking too. ” (CIRL, 1) This would be one of the first catalysts to the solidification of the psychological association between masculinity and smoking.
A founding principle of the critical perspective held here is that the fostering of this association would ultimately succeed in provoking the addictions of millions of consumer’s now deceased by its product. In spite of many of its clear drawbacks, one aspect of tobacco marketing which is often not considered is its benefit to the United States economy. Indeed, tobacco is well-associated with America’s early agricultural evolution, proving a staple in the economic capacity of the colonies to ultimately vie for independence.
The pattern of tobacco’s centricity would only advance with the sophistication of America’s economy, with its integral cultural value precipitating a larger importance from a market standpoint. To this extent, “tobacco was the seventh largest cash crop overall in the U. S. in 1994, representing just under 3% of the total value for all cash crops and farm commodities. However, at over $4,000 per acre, tobacco is clearly the most valuable crop — exceeding the combined dollar value per acre for such leading cash crops as wheat, hay, soybeans, corn, cotton, peanuts, and tree-nuts. (FPG, 1) In addition to the sheer profitability represented by tobacco, which is famously exported from the U. S. to the entire global community, the smoking industry is responsible for the creation and retention of roughly 665,000 U. S. jobs per annum (FPG, 1) This is a useful figure which indicates an importance in tobacco to many average working Americans, as well as to many local economies fully dependent thereupon.
Moreover, it illustrates that the tobacco industry is one which—if subjected to serious obstruction by regulation or legal opposition—could become a negative entity in a job economy and consumer economy which it otherwise serves with economic healthfulness today. Still, as we evaluated the positive implications of this economic role, it becomes clear that even in the context of its market value, cigarette smoking and production carry inherently negative health consequences.
In an article by Denham et al (2004), Tobacco Cessation in Adolscent Females in Appalachian Communities, in contrast to the aforementioned contention, approaches its qualitative study by way of the unstructured interview data collection method. Herein, a sample of 20 girls between the ages of 12-14 and residing in a cross-section of Appalachian states (Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia), was used to gather first-hand estimates of the factors which produced smoking habits in children in tobacco agricultural regions.
Findings yielded from exchanges with the sample population through open-ended questioning would offer a bevy of observations regarding the impact of parental behavior and the cultural disposition of young people and communities in general toward tobacco use, indicating that where tobacco growth is a central economic girding, social norms and parental permissiveness—even encouragement—expose young people to higher use risks.
This points to those areas and groups said to be advantaged by smoking as actually sharing a significant cross-section with the negatively impacted population. As a recommendation based on the findings here, the studied prevention of tobacco use and the sensible instruction toward control over addiction are the first stepping stones to dramatically relieving the population of these health concerns. This is a goal which aligns very closely economic concerns as well.
First and foremost, even beyond the concrete vitality of reducing tobacco use and dependency to the benefit of public health, the analysis here makes it clearer that the economic benefits of tobacco revenues are far outweighed by the consequences to overarching public healthcare costs. Due to the devastating impact which nicotine addiction can have on the health of both its primary user and a secondary recipient of its carcinogenic properties as well as its overall negative impact on the economy, it must be said that the cons far outweigh the pros in this analysis.