When the big tobacco companies signed multi-billion dollar settlements with the Clinton administration, many pundits believed that it would mean the end of such corporate giants as Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. This turned out not to be the case, since nothing had been done to stop people from continuing to smoke, and their income just kept pouring in.
It’s interesting that fines, taxes and regulations are imposed on companies that sell tobacco to willing customers, but not on other causes of social destruction like automobiles. An estimated 35,000 people a year die in car crashes every year. That’s only about 10 percent of the CDC’s estimate of 400,000 smoking-related deaths, but it’s not insignificant. Further, the pollutants and carbon emissions contribute heavily to an air pollution problem that is responsible for 2.4 percent of all fatalities worldwide (compared to 4 percent due to smoking).
What’s The Difference?
In short, automobiles could be considered every bit as dangerous to human life as cigarettes. The automobile industry is taxed and regulated, true, but they are seldom – if ever – fined for the damage their products cause to people and property. Another major difference: Car manufacturers can advertise on television, and they are happy to do so (watch the Super Bowl commercials and you’ll see). General Motors alone spends around $3 billion annually on advertising.
Of course, that’s $3 billion a year that a company like Phillip Morris or R.J. Reynolds isn’t allowed to spend. Tobacco companies seem to have collectively shrugged their shoulders when it comes to marketing. The last time they came up with a creative ad idea, it was Joe Camel, and Uncle Sam took him down
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