Ethics on Smoking Industry

Topics: Business ethics, Ethics, Tobacco Pages: 6 (1817 words) Published: May 22, 2010
Ethics occupy an important place in today’s modern business world. Every organization makes use of ethics to make day-today decisions and fulfill societal expectations. This essay brings to light ethical and social responsibility that every individual and company should follow in order to become better citizens for society. Essay presents analysis based on real case of Philip Morris, a tobacco company in U.S.A versus Mayola – a widow, who took legal action against company for her husband’s death due to smoking. Essay draws balanced argument based on evidences about unethical behavior of tobacco company and smokers personal responsibilities for their actions. We have used Ethical decision-making model of Lagenderfer and Rockness to frame our analysis.

Ethics in simple terms means set of moral principles or list of rules, which can determine whether particular action undertaken is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. All the activities undertaken by society are based on ethics. Ethics can be personal as well as professional. Personal ethics are based on individual’s values, beliefs, attitudes and actions while business ethics are based on certain principles or code of conduct to guide individual or a group in accordance with societal expectations. Business ethics can be defined as “study of business situations, activities and decisions where issues of right or wrong are addressed”(Crane, A& Matten ,D, 2007,P.5). Thus, ethics helps in making decision and is a key for solving problems. Today, society is facing considerable increase in number of ethical issues such as fraud, exploitation, misleading advertisement and increasing pollution.(Birt, Chalmers, Beal, Brooks, Byrne, Oliver, 2008, P.65). CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

It is essential for every organization to undertake corporate social responsibility along with its goals and objectives. According to (Birt et al., 2008, p.70) Corporate social responsibility can be referred to responsibility that an entity has to all its stakeholders, including society in general and physical environment in which it operates. There are many companies, which lack sense of corporate social responsibility and acts against interest of society.

Today, business is giving rise to numerous ethical issues, as many companies are involved in exploiting its customers, selling harmful products in markets, false marketing of products and increasing environmental and health issues. Many tobacco companies like Phillip Morris are selling harmful and addictive products like cigarettes that cause serious diseases like lung cancer and heart attack. Analysis of Phillip Morris v. Mayola, Williams case brings down certain relevant facts that give rise to ethical issues. Mayola took a legal action on Philip Morris on the grounds of false and misleading advertisement and marketing undertaken by company for its products. It is fact that Philip Morris knew that tobacco was harmful for health still he advertised his product as non-addictive and safe and Williams death was caused by smoking. Second, fact is that Philip Morris appealed solely against damages that company had to pay to other smokers who did not bring any actions against court. Their appeal was only based on excessive damages that company was supposed to pay to strangers. This clearly indicates that he is very well aware of harms caused by his cigarettes to smokers and did not appeal on the grounds that his products were safe and less addictive. It is also relevant fact that Supreme Court made decision in favor of Philip Morris that company is not liable to pay excessive damages to Ms Williams on the grounds that damages were proper under Oregon statute but was excessive under federal constitution (BBC article, 20 Feb, 2007). This indicates that ethical laws are still complex and not clearly stated under constitution.

Ethical dilemma...
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