‘Marketing is a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and values with others.’(Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders, Wong page 5)
One of the products that are exchanged through marketing is cigarettes. Tobacco is considered an inherently unethical product because is addictive, dangerous and causes environmental damage. Tobacco is also considered a pleasing product because its immediate satisfaction is high but sometimes has harmful effects in the long run.
One of the long run effects of smoking is that four million people are killed every year and is estimated that the figure will rise to ten million by 2030 if current trends remain unchanged. (Yach, Brinchmann, Bellet page 2). Early deaths of non-smokers reduce their contribution to society but the high-cost required by elderly from pensions, treatment and other benefits. Also, tobaccos duties are a major source of income for the government and so the government might want a high and inelastic demand for cigarettes. (Sloman page 85). That is the reason why governments resisted a total advertising ban on tobacco products and subsidized the production of low-grade tobacco in European community countries, in the past.
However the anti- smoking groups claim that the health costs caused from smoking outweigh the revenue benefits. The future medical costs of a young smoker could be about $13700, excluding inflation. United States spends about $60 million per year for the treatment of patients suffering from smoking-related illness which account about 43% of all smoking related medical care expenditure and are paid from federal and states funds.. Furthermore there are costs to all taxpayers and so the non-smoking taxpayer has to subsidize smokers who have made themselves ill. (Yach, Brinchmann, Bellet page 4, 7 and Sloman page 85).This injustice, urged the department of justice to file a civil lawsuit in 1999, against the largest tobacco companies, to recover the cost that federal government has to spend on smoking-related illness each year.
However our concern here is not only about the cigarette as a product but with the ethics of cigarettes as well, that affect the social process of marketing. This is because marketing process makes things worse and is also considered as unethical, and as a result has a significant negative impact on the societal welfare. Multinational tobacco companies apply sophisticated strategies ( such as putting flavor in the cigarettes and placing cigarettes in the shops near the sweets to make them more appealing) and invest huge amounts of money for marketing, in order to establish brand familiarity and future loyalty among young peoplem, to secure profits in the long run. ‘The tobacco epidemic is a man-made international health crisis, created and sustained by multinational tobacco corporations.’ (Yach, Brinchmann, Bellet page 2).
Fortunately, the tobacco industry’s behavior is likely to change due to the increasing legal and societal pressures. Much legislation has been imposed to tobacco firms based on codes of behavior, different government strategies and litigations, especially after 1980 where anti-smoking groups reactions, led to higher restrictions throughout Europe.
As long as behavior is concerned, Aristotle said, ‘ethics is a rough and ready business determined by ordinary practical men of common sense, not by inbred ascetic experts with their heads in a remote and austere world.’ (Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders, Wong page 65). Therefore, ethics goes beyond any codes or regulations and are determined on moral, cultural, social and personal (according to personal judgment) principles.
As a result, an individual can have personal, social, professional and organizational ethics which may be in conflict. As Machiavelli said, ‘this is a convenient view for business leaders who think there should be two sets of moral standards: one for public life and one for private life.’(Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders, Wong page 65). Therefore the judgment of a marketer and his/her character will affect his/her actions; making possible the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ marketing. Moreover, if the manager is a ‘utilitarian’, he/she would consider as a moral principle the one that will maximize the greatest benefits for the greatest number of people. On the other hand if the manger is an ethical formalism he/she will decide whether a principle is moral or immoral, according to his/her intentions. The manager can also use other