Ethics on Smoking Industry

Last Updated: 21 Feb 2023
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Ethics occupy an important place in today’s modern business world. Every organization makes use of ethics to make day-to-day decisions and fulfill societal expectations. This essay brings to light the ethical and social responsibility that every individual and company should follow in order to become better citizens of society. The essay presents an analysis based on the real case of Philip Morris, a tobacco company in U. S. versus Mayola – a widow, who took legal action against the company for her husband’s death due to smoking.

The essay draws a balanced argument based on evidence about the unethical behavior of tobacco companies and smokers' personal responsibility for their actions. We have used the Ethical decision-making model of Lagenderfer and Rockness to frame our analysis.

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Ethics & business

Ethics in simple terms means a set of moral principles or a list of rules, which can determine whether particular action undertaken is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. All the activities undertaken by society are based on ethics. Ethics can be personal as well as professional.

Personal ethics are based on an individual’s values, beliefs, attitudes, and actions while business ethics are based on certain principles or codes of conduct to guide an individual or a group in accordance with societal expectations. Business ethics can be defined as the “study of business situations, activities, and decisions where issues of right or wrong are addressed”. Thus, ethics helps in making decisions and is a key to solving problems. Today, society is facing a considerable increase in a number of ethical issues such as fraud, exploitation, misleading advertisement, and increasing pollution.

Corporate social responsibility

It is essential for every organization to undertake corporate social responsibility along with its goals and objectives. Corporate social responsibility can be referred to as the responsibility that an entity has to all its stakeholders, including society in the general and the physical environment in which it operates. There are many companies, which lack a sense of corporate social responsibility and act against the interests of society.

Relevant facts determined under the case

Today, business is giving rise to numerous ethical issues, as many companies are involved in exploiting its customers, selling harmful products in markets, falsely marketing of products, and increasing environmental and health issues. Many tobacco companies like Phillip Morris are selling harmful and addictive products like cigarettes that cause serious diseases like lung cancer and heart attack. Analysis of Phillip Morris v. Mayola, Williams case brings down certain relevant facts that give rise to ethical issues.

Mayola took legal action against Philip Morris on the grounds of false and misleading advertisement and marketing undertaken by the company for its products. It is fact that Philip Morris knew that tobacco was harmful to health still he advertised his product as non-addictive and safe and Williams's death was caused by smoking. Second, the fact is that Philip Morris appealed solely against damages that the company had to pay to other smokers who did not bring any actions against the court. Their appeal was only based on excessive damages that the company was supposed to pay to strangers.

This clearly indicates that he is very well aware of the harm caused by his cigarettes to smokers and did not appeal on the grounds that his products were safe and less addictive. It is also the relevant fact that the Supreme Court made the decision in favor of Philip Morris that the company is not liable to pay excessive damages to Ms. Williams on the grounds that damages were proper under Oregon statute but were excessive under the federal constitution. This indicates that ethical laws are still complex and not clearly stated under the constitution.

Ethical dilemmas for both smokers and company

An ethical dilemma arises when there is a situation with a conflict of interest. We have built certain arguments based on ethical dilemmas from the perspective of both smokers and companies. We have constructed evidence-based arguments on unethical behavior by Philip Morris Company, which includes major ethical issues, such are selling harmful products, misleading and false advertisement, acting against societal expectations, and caring out unethical business practices.

The company is involved in producing and selling harmful tobacco products that contain high amounts of nicotine, are addictive, and can cause serious health issues such as lung cancer and heart attack. The company acts unethically by encouraging people to smoke and their conflict of interest with societal ethical standards and expectations. According to the company prevents old smokers from quitting and targets young people and children. The company adopts new and innovative marketing approaches to promote its products like direct mail advertising and sending coupons with discounts. Low-tar cigarettes were developed in response to the health concerns of older smokers in 1970, but experts found them not advantageous to health and did not help smokers to quit. The company lacks corporate social responsibility as they perform activities that are against the interest of society in the general and the physical environment in which it operates. The company undertakes massive fraud by acting dishonestly having financial motive in mind. Company is involved in false advertisements indicating their products to be less addictive, more filtered, and safe.

The company tries to create an illusion by sponsoring cigarette cessation programs and trying to make society believe that they act in an ethical way, but the real motive behind it is to promote the company’s goal of selling cigarettes and meet its financial interests. Their misleading marketing activities make lots of people go for smoking. Philip Morris promised to shut down instantly if their cigarettes were found to be harmful but has failed to keep its promise, which gives rise to an ethical dilemma. According to Company uses its political and economic influence to create an environment that encourages continued consumption of cigarettes. The company is accused of political lobbying. They lobby legislators and officials in the finance ministry in order to keep tobacco prices low and thus encourage people to smoke. Philip Morris was after minimizing the total tax burden on cigarettes in order to keep smoking affordable. An article in Ethical Corporation magazine states that the company declares itself responsible and argues that there is increasing demand for cigarettes by customers and if they stop selling them, someone else will take their position.

Company tried to safeguard itself on the grounds that they are selling legal products, which are not banned by the government and is acting in an ethical way by warning its customers against dangers associated with smoking. Thus, the company gives rise to ethical dilemmas as it has the intention to make huge profits by selling harmful products that are responsible for the death of millions of people and still trying to gain creditability as a responsible company.

From the perspective of smokers in general, they give rise to ethical issues by consuming harmful products that are not ethically accepted by society and do not take warnings given by companies and the government seriously. It is unethical to blame companies solely responsible for damages caused to them and bring their own actions against the company. Their behavior can give rise to ethical dilemmas as their actions have a deep impact on their children and make smoking more desirable for their kids in the future. They also lack personal and social responsibility by giving rise to health issues and environmental concerns for society in general.


Thus, we conclude that tobacco is one of the world’s greatest preventable health problems. According to our analysis, we came to a balanced conclusion that smokers should take responsibility for their actions and companies should behave ethically by making their customers fully aware of the dangers of smoking. It is very essential to undertake combined ethical and social responsibility by both smokers and tobacco companies to avoid millions of deaths due to smoking and to act in favor of societal expectations.

Tobacco companies should stop giving misleading advertisements and marketing activities, which indicate their products are safe and less addictive. They should stop encouraging the consumption of tobacco among young and old and should ban children from its consumption. It is the responsibility of companies to support smoking cessation programs and help smokers to quit not just for sake of creating illusion but also to act in favor of society's interest in general and to build a better image in society.

A company should change its unethical business practices of creating massive fraud to fulfill its financial motive and provide support to government activities that help smokers to quit. Smokers should follow their personal ethics and should take responsibility for smoking. They should take warnings given by tobacco companies and the government to quit smoking seriously. They can search on the internet for more information or consult a doctor to improve heir knowledge about serious health issues caused by smoking. Smokers should not escape from their personal and social responsibilities toward society and their families.

It is unethical to bring their own action against the company and solely blame the company for health issues caused by smoking. It is the moral duty and responsibility of every citizen to bear the risk associated with their actions. It is the responsibility of the government to take care of its citizens and find solutions for their health relating issues. We believe that Political parties should not accept any funds from Tobacco Companies for their campaign and the government should ban any kind of commercial ads for cigarettes in magazines, newspapers or on television.

Government should support smoking cessation programs and quit and should be alert if tobacco company provides any support as they may mislead the government by doing indirect advertising for their products. We recommend that there should be a strict tobacco control strategy that restricts the consumption of all tobacco products. Thus we conclude that it is an ethical, moral, and social responsibility for smokers, tobacco companies, and the government to stop the consumption and selling of harmful products for the betterment of society and environmental concerns.


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Cite this Page

Ethics on Smoking Industry. (2018, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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