Should Tobacco companies be held responsible for smoking related illnesses and deaths?
Is anyone supposed to be held responsible for other people’s actions or choices? This is a question that is bound to exist while considering the debate of tobacco companies being held or not being held responsible for illnesses and deaths related to tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoking leads to numerous diseases especially respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including cancers such as lung cancer, throat cancer, and cancer of the larynx among other cancers. For instance, about 443,600 deaths annually related to smoking occurred between 2000 and 2004 (National Cancer Institute, para 1). Tobacco companies however should not be solely held responsible for smoking related illnesses and deaths.
It is inappropriate to shelf the blame of smoking related illnesses to tobacco companies while it is well known that it is individuals who make the choice to smoke. Since no one is compelled to smoke, then everyone should be responsible and accountable for his or her choice to smoke. The ill health or death that may result from smoking should be attributed to the individual who willingly makes the choice to smoke. After all, tobacco companies as well as other organizations clearly indicate the possible health risks related to smoking (Wakefield, Mcleod & Smith, p 300). Individuals therefore choose to smoke while they are well aware of the possible health related consequences.
Even if individuals were to claim that tobacco is addictive and hence tobacco companies should be held responsible for the negative effects of smoking, it is possible to quit smoking. Individuals can quit smoking by first having willpower to quit and then utilize resources such as nicotine replacements as a step towards quitting smoking. Just as smokers decided to smoke from an informed point, so should they decide to stop smoking and in both cases respect for individual rights should be upheld.
Despite smoking being an individual choice, the tobacco companies play a major role in influencing individuals to smoke. It is for instance notable that tobacco companies are good at enticing individuals to consume tobacco by persuading people to smoke using smart marketing approaches (Wakefield, Mcleod & Smith, p 300). Whereas tobacco companies indicate that smoking is harmful to health, they also encourage smoking in their advertisements and hence it is not solely an individual’s responsibility to smoke. In that case, tobacco companies ought to share the blame of smoking related illnesses and deaths.
When individuals fall to the trap of the persuasive advertisement and marketing messages, they eventually become addicted to smoking. Since tobacco companies influence individuals to engaging into an addictive practice, the companies also ought to be held responsible for negative consequences thereof and not to solely blame the smoker. Furthermore, it is well appreciated that quitting smoking is a great difficulty for many smokers due to the addictiveness of nicotine. For instance, Chambers (para 2) cites a smoker as saying “we want to stress that we don’t like smoking, and we feel smoking is harmful.” As such, tobacco companies should bear the blame of illnesses and deaths related to smoking. It is the tobacco companies to blame for resultant illnesses and deaths since the companies promote smoking as a stylish and good habit yet they understand the lethality of tobacco let alone its addictiveness.
Smoking related illnesses and deaths is an unending debate. However, the role of the individuals and tobacco companies is clear. Even as individuals retain rights to individual choices and consequences thereof, tobacco companies should be discouraged or banned from advertising tobacco to protect individuals from the negative consequences. However, the individuals must make less harmful decisions in all situations.
Chambers, Marcia. Ideas & trends; tobacco companies breathe a bit easier. Week in Review. The New York Times. December 25, 1985.
National Cancer Institute. Prevention and Cessation of Cigarette Smoking: Control of Tobacco Use (PDQ®): significance. 2009. Retrieved 7, June 2010 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/control-of-tobacco-use/HealthProfessional/page2
Wakefield, Melanie. Mcleod, Kim and Smith, Katherine Clegg. Individual versus corporate responsibility for smoking-related illness: Australian press coverage of the Rolah McCabe trial. Health Promotion International, 2003:18(4):297-305.
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