The Ethics of Tobacco Advertisement

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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...
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