Won’t Big Tobacco Please Think of the Children?

Over at the Cancer Blog, they are talking about how the Tobacco Industry spends over 12.4 billion dollars a year on advertising. Pretty big number. Channeling Mrs. Lovejoy, they cry out, “Won’t someone please think of the children?” Apparently, the fact that the rolling eyeballs of a toddler might accidentally stray across a tobacco ad in his father’s copy of Maxim will turn that toddler into a chain-huffing smoker.

They then ask:

    What if that money could be spent elsewhere? How many schools could be built with 12.4 billion dollars? How many women’s shelters could be erected? What sorts of advancements could be made in lung cancer research with those funds?

You can make this sort of argument with just about anything, but guess what? It’s not the tobacco industry’s job to build schools. It’s the government’s job. So perhaps a more apt question would be “How much of the settlements the tobacco industry has made with state and federal governments has actually gone to building schools?” That’s mostly rhetorical; finding out the answer to that question would take more time than I have seconds before I gallivant off to hop on a plane, but according to this page, detailing what California planned on doing with its settlement: “Proceeds of the settlement funds will not increase the state’s school spending guarantee, which depends on tax revenues.”

The same goes for women’s shelters — building them is not the tobacco industry’s job. As for lung cancer research, yeah, that would be nice. Except companies with vested corporate and political interests in the results of a scientific study should absolutely not be funding what should be objective, independent research. You only need to look at the pharmaceutical industry to see that trials sponsored by a pharmaceutical company skew wildly in favor of that company’s product.

Tobacco is a legal product. It has a legal right to advertise and spend as much damn money on advertising as they want. Some people may not like that; hell, I may not like it. But that’s what capitalism is all about. If you think tobacco should be illegal, just state your reasons, point to your research, write your congressman. But can we please stop manipulating the subject for utterly stupid talking points?

The true cost of tobacco advertising [Cancer Blog]

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  1. Transuranic says:

    Hmm, that phallic Camel Joe makes me think of dick. And then that square-jawed detective type makes me want it. Fuck cigarettes, I want to smoke some cock. That THAT, big tobacco!

    Oh yeah, I hate straw man arguments too. Do CancerBloggers really think that $12.4b worth of social improvement would spring up overnight in the absence of tobacco advertising?

    I guess I’d go out looking for sex less without Joe Camel around, so do what you want with that argument.

  2. Mary Marsala With Fries says:

    I like the “that’s capitalism” argument, except that even capitalism isn’t capitalism…we have government subsidies, gag orders and patent seizure, obscenity laws…we employ all sorts of non-free-market things, when it suits our (or corporate America’s) idea of “the common good”. Well, advertising addictive, harmful substances isn’t in the common good. So the tobacco companies go screaming “free market”.

    So either it’s okay to put restrictions on the capitalist market or it isn’t. I think either view would work, if it was actually adhered to. Letting corporations decide which works best for their bottom line–free market or government interference–is not acceptable, though. -M.

  3. Elvisisdead says:

    Well, and the other thing that they neglect to mention is that those companies have to FSCKING SELL TOBACCO to get the $12B in the first place. It didn’t just spring up out of thin air! Is it then OK to sell tobacco if you’re building schools and shelters with the profits? If you don’t spend mony on advertizing, then there won’t be profit the next time around.

    Is it OK to sell it, but just not to the US? That’s where all of this is going. Even if we were to legislate tobacco out of the US market, they’d just sell more overseas, and then import it back at a higher rate. Anyone ever been to Asia? The whole continent smokes like it’s their jobs.

    It’s like that goddamned shirt about DoD having to hold a bakesale to buy a bomber.

  4. Godders says:

    Capitalism works okay in theory, but pure capitalism doesn’t work for every product. This is why we have governments and laws and patents and many other things to even up the playing field – so private companies can’t do stuff like.. sell addictive products that kill people and pocket all the profit without taking any responsibility.

    Do you enjoy paying for all those people with lung cancer and emphysema and all the other horrible (and expensive!) diseases caused directly by smoking, while the tobacco companies have enough cash floating around to spend bajillions on advertising?
    (note: here in the UK we have a National Health Service paid for with our taxes, but I’m pretty sure the same effect is present in you American’s crazy poor-people-don’t-deserve-to-live-as-much-as-rich-people private healthcare system)

    Capitalism isn’t a terrible idea, in theory at least, and it works okay 90% of the time. But you can’t deny that in practice there needs to be some kind of control to prevent stuff that doesn’t follow capitalism’s ‘rules’ from just syphoning cash into the pockets of unscrupulous businessmen who are perfectly willing to sell addictive products that kill people.. can you?

    Do you not think that Tobacco would be illegal if it wasn’t for the fact that half the world is addicted to it (and of course the extra tax income it generates [at least it does in the UK, I imagine it's the same for you]). In fact, I’m not sure the tobacco industry would even exist if it wasn’t for the addictive qualities. I sure as hell wouldn’t still be smoking if it’s addictive powers didn’t outgun my willpower..

    I assume from the name of your site, that you claim to be “Pro-consumer”. Just how *is* tobacco good for consumers?

  5. AcidReign says:

    …..It comes down to personal choice. Governments have and always will legislate that certain things either can’t be sold, or are restricted. Smoking is harmful. So is alchohol. And so are soft drinks, fatty foods, candy, motorcycles, and skateboards. I think there’s too much regulation already. I personally think the warning label on the package is enough, and that restricting tobacco advertising is kind of silly.

    …..The problem with mandating that X amount of profits must go to the schools is that politicians will simply spend X less amount on the school budget, and spend up the X amount on some pet pork project. I’ve seen enough of the “we’ve got to make sure to use up our funding!” mentality to know.