Business Ethics Case Study

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Business Ethics. Concepts and Cases, 6th edn

Advertising Death?

In 2004, New York, Illinois, and Maryland – possibly to be joined by 30 other states – sued Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co (now part of R. J. Reynolds) for its “Kool Mixx” hip-hop promotions (CD-ROMs, DJ contests, hip-hop-themed cigarette packs, free magazines, free “Mixx Stick” radios, a website) as targeted at youth in violation of the 1998 tobacco settlement. Although the settlement prohibits ads aimed at teens, the industry spends each year $5.5 billion on US ads that teens see. Tobacco companies must get 2 million kids each year to start smoking before age 18 to replace those who die or quit (90% of smokers start before they are 21, most before 18). According to Surgeon General’s 2004 report, Health Consequences of Smoking, cigarettes injure nearly every bodily organ. Smoking kills 440,000 Americans each year and 4 million globally by generating excruciating and deadly cancerous tumors inside the mouth, lungs, throat, larynx, esophagus, bladder, stomach, cervix, kidney, and pancreas and by causing emphysema and heart attacks. In the US, annual health-related economic losses total $157 billion. Though lethal and addictive, cigarettes are sold alongside soap, bread, and candy. Joe Tye, an industry critic, notes: “No advertising is more deceptive than that used to sell cigarettes. Images of independence are used to sell a product that creates profound dependence. Images of health and vitality are used to sell a product that causes disease and suffering. Images of life are used to sell a product that causes death.” Many studies show advertising increases tobacco sales and advertising bans reduce smoking up to 16%. Brown & Williamson rejects ad restrictions, saying they violate free speech, cigarette ads are not deceptive and smokers know the risks which are on every pack and ad, people have a right to smoke and to have information about cigarette brands, ads do not make people start...
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