Advertising is a crucial marketing strategy that businesses in various industries utilize to attract customers to purchase their products. One such industry is the tobacco industry. However, in light of the health problems associated with tobacco consumption, advertising by tobacco companies has raised a lot of controversies. Notably, there have been litigations against tobacco companies in recent years aimed at increasing control of tobacco use and advertising to reduce the burden of health effects. Although these lawsuits may be an infringement of the freedom of speech of these companies under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, they are appropriate to adequately secure consumer protection.
In order to leverage the benefits of advertising of changing consumer perceptions in favor of a product, businesses are permitted to convey product information in order to promote sales. Since advertising involves communicating information and making statements, it is considered a form of speech referred to as commercial speech (Lindblom, 2017). As a result, it is covered alongside other forms of speech under the free speech protections afforded under the First Amendment. Nevertheless, since consumer products may also have risks or defects, during the advertising, businesses are also required by regulatory agencies to offer product disclosures describing any risks or limitations that their products may have (Stanwick & Stanwick, 2016). Tobacco companies mainly use labeling as a means to communicate the nature and risks of their products.
Over the years, the freedom of commercial speech of tobacco companies has been challenged by state agencies and activist organizations due to allegations of false advertising by withholding information on consumption-related health problems and its highly addictive potential. Although tobacco consumption has indeed been linked to health problems such as lung disease, activist groups and state agencies attribute the increasing prevalence of these health effects to deceptive and improper advertising by tobacco companies (Shang, 2015). Following this claim, there have been numerous lawsuits against tobacco companies seeking to control tobacco consumption by regulating advertising (Lindblom, 2017). For instance, several companies are currently battling class action lawsuits by individuals or relatives of individuals claiming they have been harmed by tobacco consumption.
According to the first amendment, commercial speech is only protected if its content only serves to propose a transaction (Lindblom, 2017). In light of this provision, tobacco advertising is tailored to stimulate the sales of tobacco products processed by a company. Some of the lawsuits raised against tobacco companies infringe on this freedom because they aim to discourage sales. For instance, a lawsuit proposed the display of the Food and Drug Administration agency-designed large color graphics of the health effects of tobacco on the packages of cigarettes (Lindblom, 2017). This is a clear deterrent requirement that will compromise the effectiveness of advertising and discourage rather than promote transactions.
Secondly, the amendment only protects commercial speech if it is neither misleading nor false (Lindblom, 2017). A commercial speech’s content must be truthful and aim to encourage a lawful activity. Some of the lawsuits sponsored by the Bloomberg Initiative have accused tobacco manufacturers of indulging in false advertising by withholding essential information on tobacco consumption’s essential health effects, including addiction (Lindblom, 2017). Considering tobacco growing and the manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products are legal in the US, tobacco advertising seems to indeed encourage a lawful activity. On the question of whether the speech is truthful, the packaging of several tobacco products, particularly cigarettes, the most consumed product, usually contains a warning on the potential risk of using tobacco. For instance, Imperial Brands, cigarette box has a bold display, “smoking kills.” The litigations against tobacco companies have been in contravention of this provision of the amendment. Some argue that the absence of more elaborate health risk warnings should be included in the packages, or the companies should invest in public service announcements (Shang, 2015). However, this will only amount to the companies spending a huge chunk of their revenue to offset a public health responsibility that belongs to the government.
In light of the fact that the smoking burden seems to be higher in low and middle-income nations, the probable explanation is that the law is inefficient in guaranteeing consumer protection. Companies seem to be operating on the edge of the regulations, and the public bears the brunt. Tobacco advertising seems to operate within the law, considering that most of the lawsuits either infringe on the first amendment protection of commercial speech or try to circumvent the protection by invoking reforms. These lawsuits are, therefore, appropriate because they secure consumer protection by bringing a neglected ethical responsibility to the attention of tobacco companies.
Tobacco advertising indeed meets the product disclosure standards. However, it is essential for manufacturers to understand the “unique risks” that their product presents (Stanwick & Stanwick, 2016). Tobacco is known to possess numerous carcinogenic components besides its strongly addictive tendency. The complicity of manufacturers in the huge burden of smoking-related health problems and the socio-economic problems resulting from tobacco addiction cannot be overemphasized. As such, as an industry whose continued performance relies on its vulnerable clients continuing to poison their bodies, companies need to participate more in the public health initiative to create awareness (Stanwick & Stanwick, 2016). Product disclosures can be formulated to sources beyond product labels, such as brand-sponsored television, newspaper, and social media product disclosure.
Lindblom, E. N. (2017). FDA-REQUIRED TOBACCO PRODUCT INSERTS & ONSERTS – AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT. Food and drug law journal, 1-25.
Shang, C. (2015). The association between point-of-sale advertising bans and youth experimental smoking: findings from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS). . AIMS public health, 832.
Stanwick, P. A., & Stanwick, S. D. (2016). Understanding Business Ethics. SAGE Publications.
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Session 3 Response Paper
Choose one (1) of the following topics and write a paper that addresses the questions posed for your selection:
Option 1: The Banking Industry
Think about the recent “build and flip” trend: Caveat emptor, no-money down, get rich quick, right at home in your spare time advertising, and the backlash against financial institutions for allowing people to buy homes using sub-prime loans. You can learn more about sub-prime loans on this website link for Fix and Flip Loans. Then analyze this trend from the perspective of marketing and the disclosure of information, and reflect on the ethical theories we have studied thus far as they relate to this trend. Write a response about where the banking industry is headed and why, how it got to where it is today, and your “informed” opinion regarding initiating industry-wide regulation versus restoring free markets.
Option 2: Truth in Advertising
What is truth in advertising? Read the article, “Truth in Advertising” by Carol Rados. How do you know when an organization is over promoting a service or product? Caveat Emptor means “buyer beware” and it is the common mantra of organizational marketing and sales groups. There are countless examples of caveat emptor in the marketplace. Analyze the Federal trade Commission’s (FTC) response to validating marketing claims. Can we really trust that the FTC is screening the ads we are exposed to? Is there anything wrong with pushing the limits of truth to close a sale? What is management’s duty to serve the stakeholders’ best interests?
Option 3: Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use
Research the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and promote effective tobacco control in low- and middle- income countries. According to Bloomberg’s initiative, while smoking has declined in higher-income countries, multinational tobacco giant Philip Morris International has targeted low- and middle-income countries as their main opportunity to increase sales and profit. Analyze the recent litigation against tobacco companies by state governments and individuals such as Bloomberg’s Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use from the perspective of the manufacturer and duty to stakeholder. Are these litigations and controls an infringement of the First Amendment as some have argued? What’s really at stake here? If you were an executive at Phillip Morris how would you interpret acceptable risk in light of the ethical theories we have studied? Write a response paper that presents a position on the propriety of these lawsuits.
Prepare a three page response paper (five pages total including cover page and reference page) that applies an interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach to ethical and analytical problem solving and demonstrates valid and reliable research-based methods for applying leadership theory to practice within the context of ethical theory and biblical worldview. Develop your paper based on the reading assignments, discussion forum, and session assignments, integrating biblical principles with outside research-based resources to support your presuppositions. A good paper should include at least three sources in addition to the course texts and be formatted according to APA requirements.
In this and all other papers in this class it is recommended you develop an outline and working draft of several pages, then boil your thoughts down to three pages plus cover page and references (5 pages total). By doing so you will be able to provide a concise and organized response that contains the most salient points and logical reasoning. You must come to a conclusion. Suggestions for how to do this are in the Example Outline (pdf) Click for more options
Click on the Session 3 Response Paper link to submit your assignment by the posted due date. Review the rubric available in Due Dates and Grades for specific grading criteria.
Reading: Assignments for Session 3
Stanwick, P., & Stanwick, S. (2016). Understanding business ethics (3rd ed.).
- Chapter 8: Ethics and the Environment
- Chapter 9: Ethics and Information Technology
- Chapter 10: Marketing and Advertising
- Chapter 11: Ethical Issues in the Developing World
Sire, J. W. (2009). The universe next door: A basic worldview catalog (5th ed.).
- Chapter 5: Zero Point
- Chapter 6: Beyond Nihilism
Call to Integrity and Ethical Conduct
Proverbs 10 outlines the motives and actions of a person of integrity. Read this chapter and personally reflect on what lessons from this proverb can be applied to your own life and situation. Then focus on Proverbs 10:9 and reflect on the following questions:
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9, NIV).
How does the Bible define integrity? What is the difference between integrity and honesty?
Do you consider yourself a person of integrity?
- If yes, how are you preserving your integrity?
- If integrity is something you have struggled with (e.g., perhaps you were a gatekeeper who was bribed) and you believe you have no business talking or teaching about integrity, the Bible promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). If you have accepted Jesus’s forgiveness, he calls you to be free. How will you move forward in this freedom?
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