Centuries ago, powerful advertising phrases were paired with one of the deadliest products in the world; that is, cigarettes. Many people, including doctors, did not believe that cigarettes were dangerous despite the direct link between cigarette smoking and diseases, such as lung cancer (White, 2009). Smoking was socially acceptable, and hence, almost everybody smoked. However, fears emerged that smoking was harmful and could lead to serious health conditions, such as cancer. To alleviate fears, tobacco companies hired models and dressed them in white to appear as doctors (White, 2009). They sought to convey the message that even doctors endorsed cigarette smoking.
During the early centuries, smoking was considered inappropriate for women, and therefore, tobacco companies resorted to unethical marketing campaigns to maximize growth. During this period, tobacco companies were recording poor sales and they sought to expand their market by capturing the non-existent market, that is, women. An example of such a campaign is the “Torches of Freedom” advertisement. The advertisers strategically used the phrase “Torches of Freedom” to encourage women to smoke by portraying cigarette smoking as a symbol of women’s freedom and a tool to fight for equal rights as men.
Instead of running advertisements emphasizing the greatness of cigarettes, the campaign intended to eradicate the social stigma attached to women and smoking. Prior to the 20th Century, cigarette smoking was considered an inappropriate act for women. Women smokers were perceived as immoral. The “Torches of Freedom” conveyed a message that cigarette smoking was the only way to challenge the existing social norms and achieve equal rights as the male counterparts. It created a social environment, which changed the societal view of smoking and women by attaching a greater desire to it. Consequently, many women embraced smoking leading to a significant increase in cigarette sales.
This was achieved through a staged public relations stunt that triggered the euphoria of the equality movement and women’s rights. notably, the campaign was successful, and hence, cigarette sales surged.
Pitching cigarettes as “Torches of Freedom” that would lead to equality between men and women is unethical business practice. Lying in advertisements is unethical (Byars & Stanberry, 2018). In this case, it can be argued that the “Torches of Freedom” campaign constitutes lying. Two critical elements apply to this advertisement. First, the cigarette advertisers understood that this proposition is false, and second, they expected the audience to believe the false claims made in the advert to be true. The proposition that cigarettes are “Torches of Freedom” is a false statement intended to deceive the audience (White, 2009). It is merely a commercially motivated effort to change the societal view of women and smoking, which sought to eliminate the associated stigma. Insisting that smoking is associated with addiction and disease is true. However, some schools of thought often associate smoking with the propositions and phrases used in the advertising campaigns (Das, 2010). Given that the “Torches of Freedom” proposition is false, it can be argued that the advertisers knew that equating smoking to women’s emancipation was false.
While cigarette advertising continues to serve as a connotative communication style, using demonstrable falsehoods and peddling lies to maximize sales is purely unethical.
The majority of people across the globe have noticed the damaging effects of cigarette smoking. Consequently, there has been a substantial decline in cigarette consumption in many countries (World Health Organization, 2018). Despite the continued existence of the tobacco industry and the persistent marketing efforts, there are indications that millions of tobacco users have quit since the onset of the 20th century (World Health Organization, 2018). For instance, between 2000 and 2004, the total number of smokers globally dropped by 9 million (World Health Organization, 2018). Various strategies, in line with WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), have been key to the reduced tobacco use globally. Since 2007, the World Health Organization supported various countries to implement the MPOWER measures (World Health Organization, 2018). MPOWER refers to a set of six high-impact and cost-effective measures aimed at helping countries reduce tobacco demand. Roughly, 4.7billion people across the globe are covered by at least one of the MPOWER comprehensive measures (World Health Organization, 2018). The implementation of MPOWER measures has rescued millions of individuals across the globe from an early death. Tobacco control efforts have been effective in achieving sustained reductions in the consumption of tobacco.
Sadly, much of the health benefits likely to accrue from this change may not occur in many middle and low-income nations (World Health Organization, 2018). Notably, these countries continue to record a rise in the number of tobacco consumers because the tobacco industry’s persistent lobbying thwarts the implementation of stringent tobacco control laws in middle and low-income countries. Many of these countries have repeatedly cited the tobacco industry’s interference with tobacco control policies as the biggest obstacle to implementing tobacco control measures (World Health Organization, 2018). However, the World Health Organization’s demand reduction measures such as increasing taxes on tobacco products have proven to be the most effective in tackling tobacco consumption. The industry’s interference attempts to target middle and low-income nations to compensate for the losses suffered (in revenue and number of smokers) in high-income nations where tobacco control policies have been intensively implemented. While high-income countries have recorded a decline in the number of smokers, the low and middle-income countries continue to experience a steady rise since 2000.
The continued increase in tobacco use in middle and low-income countries will potentially curtail the crucial health benefits that many high-income countries have achieved. It is globally recognized that tobacco consumption derails global growth and development. Decreasing tobacco consumption, one of the main risk factors contributing to morbidity and mortality at all life stages, can possibly improve the world’s capability to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Byars, S. M., & Stanberry, K. (2018). Business Ethics. Place of publication not identified: OpenStax.
Das, G. A. (2010). Ethics, business, and society: Managing responsibly. Los Angeles: Response Books. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=1PuHAwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Ethics,+business,+and+society+:+Managing+responsibly+Response+Books&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiD1834r6XrAhWLKewKHUeXA1EQ6AEwAHoECAQQAg#v=onepage&q=Ethics%2C%20business%2C%20and%20society%20%3A%20Managing%20responsibly%20Response%20Books&f=false
World Health Organization. (2018). WHO global report on trends in the prevalence of tobacco smoking 2000-2025 (2nd Ed.), pp. 11-18. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272694/9789241514170-eng.pdf?ua=1.
White, R. (2009). Smokescreens: The truth about tobacco. Raleigh, NC: Richard White. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=YAldAgAAQBAJ&pg=PP11&dq=When+Even+Doctors+Smoked&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjY3YLRrqXrAhWL5KQKHd6PBzkQ6AEwAnoECAAQAg#v=onepage&q=When%20Even%20Doctors%20Smoked&f=false
Appendix A. Unethical Advertising
I will use Appendix A to show that doctors endorsed cigarette smoking. The advertisement is unethical and inappropriate.
Appendix B. Advocacy as a Tobacco Control Strategy
This source will be crucial in providing me with information on the evolution of tobacco control measures. I will also obtain information on the strengths and weaknesses of various State tobacco control strategies.
Appendix C. The ethics of tobacco advertising and advertising bans. British Medical Bulletin, Volume 52, Issue 1, January 1996, Pages 121–131.
The source will introduce me to the basics of ethical advertising. This source will give me an overview of the ethical considerations of tobacco marketing and advertising. I will be able to understand the best practices of advertising tobacco products.
These Appendices are credible because they have been available for a long period of time. Moreover, more information about the chosen appendices can easily be located online. Appendix A has been repeatedly cited in various old and recent publications, which further authenticates its credibility. Anyone can easily access information about these sources.