Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This is Bad Banning not Reasonable Regulations

Anti-tobacco ads are familiar to most of us in the United States.  I remember seeing ads telling me and my family about the dangers of smoking as a child in the early 1990s and I continue to see them as a married adult even today in 2012.  After reading the article about tobacco advertising regulation I realized that most people under twenty-five, myself included, would have a hard time recalling an advertisement promoting tobacco use seen during their lifetime.  I do not smoke and find the habit to be quite disgusting; with that said, I do not see enough reason for the tobacco companies to be banned from advertising their products.  I take the second stance:  bans on advertising for tobacco products are unethical.  Let us look at this from two perspectives: simple business and complex justice.  

First we will tackle the simple business perspective.  Under the assumption that tobacco companies are legal taxpaying entities they are entitled to advertise their products as any other company would.  Federal bans and restrictions on their advertising could be seen as a type of discrimination.  There should be some type of regulation because it is an adult product with known health effects.  These regulations should be concerned with during what programming, time of day, and so forth to avoid as much advertising to children, individuals with limited capacities, and other vulnerable groups.  Healthy – mentally and physically – adults, smokers and nonsmokers representing both current and potential customers, should be the target audience.  The bans on advertising for tobacco products are unethical because legitimate companies should have the right to advertise their products in the United States, especially since there are numerous advertisements against them. 

Second we look at this from a complex justice or “fairness” perspective.  Is it fair that tobacco companies cannot freely advertise their products?  The argument presented in the Wikipedia article focuses on how the detrimental effects of tobacco products on the health of consumers have lead governments and regulatory bodies to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in many countries around the world.[i]  Despite the known health risks there are dozens of unhealthy products advertised every day.  For years there have been connections drawn between cell phones and brain tumors, artificial sweeteners and cancer, and alcohol and mental, developmental, and physical risks[ii] just to name a few.  The only way to make the playing field just is by placing bans on all of these potentially lethal products, regulating them as best as possible, or allowing them all to freely advertise.  In this country tobacco is being singled out by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.[iii]  For these reasons, I do think that it is unethical to ban advertisements for these products but not others that may be just as damaging to the consumers health.   

[i]Tobacco Advertising. (2012, September 24). Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Wikipedia:

[ii] Alcohol and Public Health. (2011, October 28). Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

[iii] "The Public and Broadcasting" - July 2008. (2011, Jully 20). Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Federal Communications Commission:


  1. Hi, I actually took the reverse position – tobacco advertising is unethical, in the United States. I specify the country, because as I explore the idea of what is ethical or not, I realize that we are not all bound by the same ethical codes and standards, nor does this make one view more or less ethical than the other. Tobacco bans are a result of regulation within a democratic society, which means, there is a ban because we the people support a ban. Individually our views may vary, but as a whole it is reflective of the nation. The opposite is true of some Latin American countries, who despite pressures to regulate from WHO, have refused. An American example would be prohibition.

    Being a legal taxpaying business does afford you certain rights. However, every potentially harmful product is regulated, for tobacco it just happens to be TV. The technology advances, TiVo, DVR, and internet playback, time based regulation for TV seems irrelevant as it can be played back at any time of day.

    Lastly, what is considered fair doesn’t necessarily equate to ethical. Is it fair that a convicted felon cannot vote in a society that they are required to live in, about laws they are required to obey? or have they lost that right for the harm to society they have done to get the felony? Is it fair?

    I think all products, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, artificial sweeteners, etc should be evaluated independently for their place in society. Just because one potentially harmful product is legal and free to advertise doesn’t mean they all should be and vice versa.

  2. Hi, I too took the reverse position on this topic, but you bring up some very interesting points which I agree with. I saw many comments related to alcohol and other lethal substances including sugar, and yet I went from a more myopic look when I just addressed tobacco based on the reading.

    I also have seen that the regulations are very different in Latin American countries and made note of this in my blog. If there is money, why can't anything be advertised? And from your perspective that is where we get into trouble, because of the fairness of one lethal substance to advertise and not allowing it for another.

    You bring up Fair vs. Ethical and I must say that this is a topic that provokes much ongoing thought. They are not the same though many people may equate the two.

    Who is to evaluate and delineate among what should be advertised and what should not? It has not been done effectively yet, and for the meantime, I will have to stick with my instincts and censorship of materials I do not see as appropriate for my child as many other parents out there must do.

    Thank you for invoking other thoughts on this type of advertising:)