Cigarette Companies Gone Wild, Worldwide

Don Draper saw it all coming as the TV show “Mad Men” was unfolding. As seasons went by, the government cracked down on tobacco companies’  advertising tactics. In the early ‘50s and ‘60s, the modern man was doing business with a cigarette always in his reach. This began to change after the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act was passed in 1965, as scientists discovered numerous health risks caused by cigarettes. The U.S. government observed the hazards posed by cigarettes, and, for once, they finally came down hard on big corporations.

More generally, as the danger of cigarettes was fully recognized, most industrialized countries started taking certain precautions to discourage cigarette use. Rules about smoking in public spaces have gradually appeared over time, and here in the U.S., many college campuses are smoke-free. Australia also adopted a plain packaging law that bans tobacco company branding in 2011, which forces tobacco companies to put either warning messages about health risks or pictures to disgust the consumer on their packaging. Overall, the efforts made by the U.S. helped diminish adult smoking rates from 43 percent in 1965 to 18 percent, according to the Public Health Service. Despite this success at home, the smoking culture stays strong in some countries.

Big tobacco companies rebounded in various developing Asian countries. For example, take a look at Indonesia. The World Health Organization reports that 67 percent of adult males living there smoked in 2013. That percentage is way higher than what tobacco companies achieved in the U.S. back in the golden era of Marlboro’s cowboy ads. In those Asian countries where legislators are more lenient with tobacco companies, the big multinational corporations don’t hesitate to indirectly target kids and teenagers by building sponsored vending points next to schools, for example. PMI and other tobacco companies are just taking advantage of countries with high stress levels and a relatively low public consciousness in regard to the dangers of smoking.

As the reputations of tobacco corporations have deteriorated in first world countries, they’ve slowly adapted their marketing strategy to target less educated populations, allowing these mega-corporations to reap the benefits. In countries like the U.S., efforts to diminish the negative impacts of the smoking industries have been thoroughly acknowledged. Several anti-tobacco industry laws have been passed since the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, going as far as to ban cigarette endorsements from television.

But globalizing, multinational corporations are, as usual, exploiting whatever vulnerable communities they can access. Those who cannot protect themselves or do not have effective governments looking after them will continue to suffer the deadly consequences that smoking tobacco elicits. Although praiseworthy efforts have been made to educate citizens from the wealthier regions of the world, smoking and tobacco companies remain a continual threat to developing countries.

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