“Let us kill our customers” can be the un-stated marketing objective of only one industry. It is not the arms industry, industries peddling lethal chemicals of many guises or unhealthy food for different manufactured “needs”. This industry manufactures, markets and profits from substance that kill over seven million of their customers every year and seriously harming and maiming others. Worldwide it caused over US$ 1.4 trillion in healthcare costs. Despite this, it is one of the most profitable industries in the world, with an income larger than the GDP of some countries, giving it ample resources to peddle influence, buy loyalty and keep profiting through killing.
Manipulation of the unaware and the unmindful for corporate gains has become the norm even in the so-called liberal, democratic, rich and educated societies. There are many examples of such profiteering from products, services and even from the new-fangled norm – “social media”. Tobacco is different. It kills its customers. Its purveyors know it, understand it and accept it. Most of them do not use it.
Tobacco is the most preventable cause of death in the world. One in two tobacco users will die because of a disease caused by tobacco. It can be through a heart disease, stroke, cancer or any one of the other numerous diseases caused by this product. This is well known. Thousands of studies attest to the devastating harm of tobacco on the human body. Many studies have proven the massive economic and social costs that occur as a result. Then, how can such a substance be sold legally? Why do people keep using it?
It is a game, using 3 Ds. Deception, Doubt and Deceit. And Resources with a capital “R”.
"Do those earning a living from this industry realize what they earn to pay for spending on their children result in other children losing their fathers? Do they realize that the objective of what they do in their jobs daily is to create demand and increase the use of a deadly product?"
Deception? A cigarette is made to be a tool of liberation, sophistication and individual choice for its users. How this is done so is well documented from the time when Edward Bernayce stated the “Torches of Freedom” campaign that shamelessly aimed to get women to smoke as an act of liberation. Fortunately, no longer can it be marked a “rebel” product, as smoking marketed to our grandfathers. If it was tried, it would be stretching things too far, so that even the most uninformed and the vacuous brains will register that a habit of our grandfather could not possibly be rebellious, or even fashionable after all this time.
Do those earning a living from this industry realize what they earn to pay for spending on their children result in other children losing their fathers? Do they realize that the objective of what they do in their jobs daily is to create demand and increase the use of a deadly product? To snare children and make them smoke? Perhaps they too are deceived just like the unfortunate users of this product.
Doubt? Doubt is a weapon of this industry. Academic papers, newspaper articles and even films record how they sow doubt about the scientific findings on the harms of tobacco. It has been well documented how scientists were hired to write “scientific” articles and appear in the media, casting doubt on the substantial body of research that show the true colours of this deadly substance.
Deceit? All around the world, this industry is not shy of using outright lies to make governments hesitate in implementing measures that protect their people from this industry and its products. The most familiar to us are “smuggling is rampant following price increases of cigarettes”, and “smokers switch to other alternatives such as beedi when the price of cigarettes are increased”, both which “reduce government revenue”. Nothing of this sort has happened in the past, despite the repeated squawking. There are many other such true sounding lies that are used.
"The current laws and regulations on tobacco will control and reduce the misery but will not eliminate it. There is no scientific, social, moral or economic reason for allowing this to carry on. Governments are not meant to cover, quiver or salivate before unbridled corporate greed"
They also rob entire countries. In Sri Lanka, as in many Asian countries this industry is owned by trans-national corporations that take almost all of its profits away to their homes in the West. Even so, rational and technically sound taxation can reduce this drain of wealth from the poor to the rich world. However in Sri Lanka, such a safety net does not function.
How does the profits of an industry increase almost ten-fold, just over 10 years, while the number of its products sold has decreased steadily?Is the tax that can be collected being gifted to the industry? How can successive governments allow this industry to rip the country off by allowing the tax collected from this industry to erode in real-terms, costing the country billions of rupees every year? Why are even the senior citizens taxed on their paltry interest income and even the poorest of the poor burdened by more and more taxes while the taxation of tobacco has not changed over 18 months? Accident? Design? Neglect? Incompetence? Or something more putrid?
The current laws and regulations on tobacco will control and reduce the misery but will not eliminate it. There is no scientific, social, moral or economic reason for allowing this to carry on. Governments are not meant to cover, quiver or salivate before unbridled corporate greed. After all, governments and government institutions exist to protect people. People, whose money is sucked to maintain them. The time to stop allowing this intentional, targeted and heartless carnage that is going on is right now. If not, millions more would have died or will become incapacitated, families pushed into poverty and an untold numbers of children would have lost their fathers by the time World No Tobacco Day arrives again on 31st May next year. Guess who would be still laughing all the way to the bank?