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]