Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who's Worse: Tobacco Companies or 'Truth'?

It's a lot closer than it should be. "Truth" is the anti-big-tobacco organization that puts out anti-big-tobacco advertisements. I say "anti-big-tobacco" rather than "anti-smoking" because I've never seen an advertisement by the group that focused on the dangers of smoking, or was attempting to convince people to quit and/or not begin smoking. Which, if that's what they did, would be a noble enterprise. However, virtually all of their efforts are aimed at the demonizing and scapegoating of tobacco companies and executives, which I can't imagine is very effective in terms of actually reducing the amount of people who smoke. Neither could it possibly frighten or deter tobacco companies from going about their normal business, even if that were a noble goal (which I don't really believe that it is).

Tobacco companies fill a market demand. Even if you successfully convinced every existing tobacco company to cease production of cigarettes tomorrow, how long do you think it would take before more companies cropped up to fill that void? Hopefully it should be clear that the problem of smoking, especially at this point in history, where the dangers of smoking are well known to just about everyone and full disclosure is not an issue, is not the responsibility of tobacco companies.

We, as consumers, have the power to not only force tobacco companies out of business, but to ensure that others don't replace them. How? By not purchasing tobacco products. By choosing to stop smoking. By ending the demand. Therefore the continued existence of tobacco companies is entirely, fully our own responsibility, as consumers. And if "Truth" really wants to put the tobacco companies out of business, they should focus their efforts on convincing us to quit buying, rather than on them to quit selling. That's an exercise in futility if ever there was one.

With this being the case, 'Truth's campaign, if they truly want to end smoking, is completely backwards in it's methodology. We know from the lesson of prohibition in the 20s that cutting off the supply of a product that is in very high demand only creates black markets and a large organized crime problem. You have to attack the problem on the demand side. The issue is a personal choice and public health issue, and the solutions are already known. We need only, as individuals, to either implement them or not. If we do, good for us. If we don't, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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