R.J. Reynolds Tobacco: Equal-Opportunity Killer


It’s almost as if, with increasing attention being paid to breast cancer lately, the folks at R.J. Reynolds figured they could afford to help a few more women get lung cancer, and maybe no one would notice. Never mind that lung cancer already kills a lot more women than breast cancer does.

R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company, is about to start a new advertising campaign, at an estimated cost of $25 to $50 million, the foreseeable consequence of which will be the deaths of a lot of women.

That’s the estimated cost of the ad campaign to introduce Camel’s latest sub-brand, “Camel No. 9,” which is aimed at women. Apparently Joe Camel has been a guy’s guy for too long. As of this year, he’s got an equal helping of love for the ladies.

See the New York Times story here:
A New Camel Brand Is Dressed to the Nines

THE next time R. J. Reynolds Tobacco asks smokers to walk a mile for a Camel, watch how many of them are in high heels.
Reynolds, eager to increase the sales of its fast-growing Camel brand among women, is introducing a variety aimed at female smokers. The new variation, Camel No. 9, has a name that evokes women’s fragrances like Chanel No. 19, as well as a song about romance, “Love Potion No. 9.”

What can I say that’s not obvious? Yeah, cigarettes are legal, but not everything that’s legal is ethical. Sure, people choose to smoke…well, sort of. Most people start due to peer pressure (and advertising?), and keep smoking because nicotine is addictive. But hey, everyone’s got a right to make a living, right? And sure, RJR says it’s only trying to attract women who already smoke to switch to their brand. But that’s neither plausible nor exculpatory. All of that is obvious.

So, here’s the discussion question for the day. How much individual, personal responsibility falls on each and every employee at R.J. Reynolds, for selling a deadly, addictive product? The industry, as a whole, doesn’t care about the ethics of selling their product, and from a legal point of view, their huge profits allow them to survive even enormous lawsuits. But don’t the people who work for these companies deserve some blame? (Clearly, the blame can’t be too specific, and can’t be shared equally. A janitor mopping the floors at RJR’s corporate headquarters is indeed an employee, but he can’t reasonably be blamed for the death of some specific individual smoker, even though he’s contributing to the success of the business that made the product that contributed to her death. But just as clearly, senior executives can’t escape personal moral responsibility for statistical increases in deaths associated with their products. Right?)
But I’ve said enough. Discuss among yourselves.

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Tip of the hat to Andrew potter, who appropriately labelled Camel the “evil brand of the day.”

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