Should we trust the tobacco companies’ new image?

Recently, the tobacco industry has been advertising itself as being a reformed industry. Because of this, it seems to think collectively that we should not judge it based on its past behaviour. This past behaviour includes over 50 years of lies and deceit about cancer and nicotine.

On one hand, tobacco companies sell us tobacco products which clearly kill the consumer and on the other hand, tobacco companies are involved in preventative health campaigns and funding scientific research into protecting us from tobacco.
Evidence forced into the open now indicates that what the tobacco companies say to the public and to the government largely contradicts what they say to themselves in their boardrooms. Tobacco companies are determined to put their profits ahead of your health and long life.

If you think for one moment that tobacco companies are in any way interested in anything but your cold hard cash, think again.

Tobacco is the single largest cause of premature death in the world. Over 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco related illnesses, another 100,000 in the United Kingdom and over 10,000,000 throughout the world by 2010.

In any other walk of life, these products would not be allowed on the shelves and because of their whole hearted determination to protect their industry, the tobacco industry should not be given a role to play in crafting the long term solution to this problem.

To emphasise the point regarding the tobacco industry’s sincerety regarding its new touchy-feely approach to the evils of tobacco, a recent report from the UK’s House of Commons said:

It seems to us that the companies have sought to undermine the scientific consensus until such time as that position appears ridiculous. So the companies now generally accept that smoking is dangerous (but put forward distracting arguments to suggest that epidemiology is not an exact science, so that the figures for those killed by tobacco may be exaggerated); are equivocal about nicotine’s addictiveness; and are still attempting to undermine the argument that passive smoking is dangerous.

It is not in the interests of tobacco companies, their employees or shareholders to undertake any activity which actively restricts, regulates or tightens their ability to grow their market share.

The main objectives of the tobacco industry – to sell more tobacco to more and more users – has not changed. The presentation and spin (PR Strategy) has.

Tobacco companies are working against legitimate evidence based research that is used to justify public health campaigns against tobacco use.

The tobacco industry continues to question the evidence that nicotine is addictive and threat tobacco smoke is a major factor in many illnesses including lung cancer.

The companies have merely accepted, grudgingly, a small number of selective facts that are beyond reasonable doubt. Even these have been accepted with new qualifications and distracting caveats.

Whilst on the one had saying that they should be restrained in marketing their products as a result of their ill-effects on health, tobacco companies continue to target campaigns on youth and younger generations (to provide them with longer term smokers/customers).

The companies continue to support health campaigns that do not work.

The companies still resist the regulatory standards other products must adhere to for legal sale.

The industry as a whole has never withdrawn any earlier false and misleading statements.

No one in the industry has apologized, resigned, or been fired as a result of making false or misleading statements.

Every smoker who quits smoking is a lost customer. Tobacco companies only support quit smoking methods that are known to be unsuccessful.

Ask yourself why would any industry campaign against its own interests?

The tobacco industry continues to aggressively promote tobacco use in every corner of the globe. The reality is that the tobacco industry has not really changed despite the claims it makes in public – it has just changed its.

If history has taught us anything about the tobacco industry, it is that it will change only if it is forced to change, and that change will come only if imposed from outside. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control could be that vehicle for change providing tobacco companies are not allowed to hijack the initiative.