Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I needed to get that out of my lungs

First things first: My new obsession is indeed I have no idea why because I am convinced that a ton of them are made up, most of them are really quite sad and unfortunate, but so many of them make me laugh out loud. Check it.

On a much more serious note, I have been thinking a lot lately about things that are worth writing about. I have been less than inspired lately (and taking all of my free time becoming more comfortable with Lightroom; maybe I will post pictures soon!). In the past two weeks though, a topic has been on my mind that I have been debating on whether to write about or not. I have decided to write on it simply because I cannot stop thinking about it.

About a month ago, my Intro to Global Development Studies professor commented on the role tobacco companies play world wide. To preface this, previous to this particular lecture, tobacco companies and cigarettes were not two of my favorite things. To be completely honest, I have a very strong dislike, which could be likened to hate, for the whole industry. So as she started talking, my ears perked up.

Lately, "compassionate consumerism" has been all the rage, especially among college students. People are all about having a global conscience and not buying from companies that do not practice fair trade or companies that freely exploit their employees, etc. The reality is that many companies now claim that they are dedicated to their global impact, but many do that to slap a label on a product so that people will buy it, and nothing in the businesses' practices are being changed. The next reality, is that many people, especially college-aged students, smoke cigarettes. I know a few that seem to smoke like chimneys, actually.

The questions I would like to pose after stating these two realities is this: How does one reconcile purchasing an item from a multi-billion dollar corporation that exploits people in developing countries?

Here is the deal: Developed countries', mainly the US and Great Britain, cigarette corporations have "recently" entered into the developing world. Due to the mere education that is given to Americans (yes, both North and South), cigarette industries are not doing as well as maybe they would hope. What do they do? They turn to developing countries and plaster streets and billboards with advertisements boasting the "American Cowboy", the "American manly-man" and all other stereotypes that would win the heart of young Africans, Eastern Europeans and Asians that are craving to be apart of the American dream.

See, smoking is often a way to be social and a way to fit into a group of people; for example, a smoke break outside to shoot the breeze with some new co-workers. Why wouldn't people from the developing world want to share at least this one thing with their fellow global citizens? And in many developing countries, people can make quite the profit by buying cartons of cigarettes and selling the cigs individually. This is perfect, because those that want to buy the smoke sticks cannot afford a whole pack, but they can afford one! Both parties win.

Except for the fact that tobacco companies know the cancer-inducing properties their product embodies. And according to WHO projections, it looks like cancer will be the leading cause of death within years not too far off. Yep, beating the AIDS epidemic, malaria, tuberculosis and all those other diseases that any wealthy citizen of the United States could "treat". Unfortunately, the reason that these are major problems in places like Africa and Southeast Asia, are because the countries over there do not have the means to treat anything, really. Not even diarrhea. So, how are people going to cope with cancers that could have been avoided if their ignorance about health was not, well, exploited.

I know, people can make their own decisions and if people want to inhale chemicals that are deemed legal, let them do it. But, I cannot find any comfort in this. The tobacco companies are going abroad, selling the American ideal through cigarettes and are not looking back to see the consequences this is causing. And in all honesty, denying most of their wrong doings, like advertising specifically to minors. Young boys, who are already been recruited into violent militias are being photographed with, not only a gun in hand, but a cigarette in their mouth. Smoking cigarettes has increased dramatically in the Eastern hemisphere and no one seems to really care about it.

How can we sit back and allow these companies to do this abroad, when people within our countries cannot even cope with the unhealthy and disease-ridden problems that smoking creates?

Like, I said, I was not a fan of tobacco companies before this discussion. Any corporation that is willing to put a dog on a treadmill, with a cigarette in it's mouth, and find out that the cigarette does give the dog cancer, but still turns around and denies cancerous properties, disgusts me. And any corporation that is willing to push this upon people, world-wide, that are already struggling with hardships that the CEOs of these companies could never imagine, just straight up pisses me off.

So, please, tell me why any person who is advocating for "conscience consumerism" or human rights on the behalf of everyone, is willing to pour ridiculous amounts of money into the tobacco industry, when all the industry does is turn around and pour it into exploiting those very people that need to be given aid?

For more information regarding this topic:

WHO Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)
BBC Article: Tobacco giant 'breaks youth code'

I actually saw an add for Natural American Spirits, in some fashion magazine (Vogue?), boasting that they are fair trade and organic. Okay, do not even get me started here.


Caitlin said...


2. Don't get me started. I'm anti-tobacco right now I'm one smokey car away from taking a sawed off shot gun to every tobacco company in the world.

3. Vogue? HEHE I love you

4. Congratulations on your new cousin! What is her name?

Natalie said...

ha ha ha

Well, Mercy's bean doesn't have a name yet. I will tell you when I hear.