Although it is expected to die in Congress -- and President Bush has promised a veto if it does not -- a bill is currently circulating that would allow the FDA to control cigarette contents ("Reynolds American" 2008). If this bill were to pass, and the likelihood of it doing so is much greater with a Democratic congress and president, it could mean the perpetual death of the tobacco industry. Thus, these issues continue to be primary as shareholders determine if and when to buy.
III. International Ethics
Once a symbol of American life and a major contributor to Revolutionary War funds, tobacco quickly found itself unwanted by many vocal United States' citizens once its harmful health effects became known. Since the late 1990s, the issue of international ethics has been of prominence in the discussions regarding the tobacco industry. As outraged Americans began to restrict the tobacco industry's options for marketing due to an increased concern over health issues and minor's access to the products, the tobacco industry began expanding its horizons with a primary goal of developing countries. In fact, tobacco companies now grow the plant in Africa, South America, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Greece Thailand, and the Dominican Republic, with fifty percent of all tobacco sales going to Asian countries ("From the First to the Last Ash" nd). According to the Food and Agricultural Administration of the United Nations, developing countries' use of tobacco is expected to increase, in opposition to the Western statistics, which show tobacco use declining ("Higher World Tobacco Use" 2004). Because the cost of operation is low in developing countries, tobacco companies have relocated tobacco production to these countries, resulting in higher amount of smokers in the developing countries. In fact, according to the Food and Agricultural Administration of the United Nations, developing countries are expected to continue cigarette production. Some suggest that this is because of their small production rate, a suggestion that is most likely sound ("Higher World Tobacco Use" 2004).
While most would agree that it is not ethical for the developing world to serve as a police force for the developing world, some suggest that the tobacco company's expansion into the developing world is less than ethical itself. These people would most likely suggest that the lure of growing tobacco for economic benefit has caused members of developing countries to compromise their health. Indeed, it does seem that the number of smokers in the developing world is not only increasing, but it is doing so with drastic implications for the smokers themselves. In 1999, the BBC quoted the World Health Organization as saying that "smoking is set to cause a cancer epidemic in the developing world," adding that smoking "could kill 200-300 million people in the next 25 years" ("World Smoking Deaths"). In fact, the news organization went as far as to call the problem an "epidemic" ("World Smoking Deaths" 1999). But while the death toll from smoking is rising, developing countries economic potential is falling each time another citizen lights up. Because developing countries' smokers are much poorer than American smokers, they use hand-rolled cigarettes without filters, a situation that is more than potentially deadly. Thus, smokers in the third world are at a higher risk for disease, and therefore, a higher risk for medical costs. According to Forbes, each pack-a-day smoker in the third world looses 13.9% of a year of his or her life, in addition to $448.61 a year. In totality, this means a developing country looses just under $500 million each year because of its smokers (Van Riper 2007).
While one cannot accuse tobacco companies of forcing third-world countries to adopt large-scale smoking habits, one would be hard-pressed to defend the argument that they did not help the smokers along. By turning to these countries to grow tobacco once Americans grew displeased with the crops on their land, the companies offered economic incentives that that appeared like water in the desert to the impoverished populations of developing countries. Once these countries had become the manufacturers, tobacco companies also targeted them as consumers, and, until pressured by stockholders, did not put warning labels on the packets, exposing smokers to life-shortening poisons without also exposing them to the facts. While the tobacco companies are businesses and must operate as such, some can characterize many of their dealings in the third world as unethical. As the number of smokers in the United States continues to rise as opposed to the number of developing country smokers in developing countries, which is declining, United States' activists may soon undertake smoking in the third world as a cause for which to rally, like HIV or Malaria.
IV. Ecological and Natural Resources
Unlike many other industries, the tobacco industry relies on a natural resource for its products. According to the International Tobacco Growers Association, tobacco is a perennial plant that is the world's largest grown non-food crop. A natural resource in a host of countries, over 120 countries grow the plant because it can be grown in a number of climactic conditions, although it is indigenous to North America. While tobacco can be grown in a variety of locations and conditions, different locations and conditions require different growing techniques. Tobacco plants are grown for their leaves, the major component in cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which are harvested, curled, and then sold for the manufacturing of such products. About 10 to 20 leaves can be produced from each plant, and the flowers are usually trimmed from the plants to maximize leave growth (nd).
But even though tobacco itself is natural resource, tobacco products can still be harmful to the environment. Ecologically speaking, smoking is one of the worst forms of air pollution encountered in this world. According to Vince (2004), "the air pollution emitted by cigarettes is 10 times greater than diesel car exhaust." The findings of the Italian study published on New Science magazine's web site should be shocking to many who smoke inside and outside the home. With recent attention being paid to pollutants, especially greenhouse gasses such as diesel fuel, and their role in global warming, the findings give credence to the smoking bans that have encompassed locations as small as a restaurant to as large as a community, city, or state. Indeed, Vince (2004) suggests that cigarette smoke may even be more harmful than the exhaust given off by a typical car, as cigarette smoke contains more toxins that can be breathed into a person's body. A person's eyes, lungs, and respiratory tract can be damaged just from breathing second hand smoke (Vince 2004).
And while second hand smoke damage to a person's body is no doubt important, the study has other ecological implications, suggesting that cigarette smoke can damage some plant leaves as well. Furthermore, the casings used to house cigarettes pose even more threat to the environment. In his urgent plea with students and faculty at Ithaca College, student journalist Welch (2003) made an interesting case about cigarettes' ecological damage. For instance, Welch notes that cigarette filters are non-biodegradable, made from a plastic containing toxic chemicals that, when broken down in the land fill or wherever the cigarette butt was tossed, leak poison into the soil, which eventually makes it to the water stream and into people's bodies.
Thus, while tobacco may be a natural resource that is cultivated all over the world, this does not necessarily mean all tobacco products are safe. Biologically, a nonsmoker passing a smoker outside of a building is more harmful than that same nonsmoker passing an idling diesel bus that is emitting large amounts of exhaust. Second hand smoke is not only inconvenient, resulting in a quick cough for most nonsmokers, but it can also be harmful to one's eyes, lungs, and respiratory tract. Ecologically, cigarette smoke can damage the leaves of some plants. Furthermore, cigarette filters, which are non-biodegradable, are often tossed onto the ground after the cigarette has been enjoyed, or, in the best case scenario, sent to a landfill with other poisonous refuse. Once the filters begin to break down, poisons from the plastics used in them are released into the ground, eventually contaminating the water stream, a person's drink, and that person's body. In addition, because most filters are made out of plastic, some would suggest that greenhouse gasses, important elements in climate change and the destruction of the Ozone Layer, were used to manufacture them. Although some have marked cigarette smoking as a personal choice, most non-smokers would agree that smoking in public is not very personal. Instead, the choice not personal at all, but rather biologically and ecologically affects every person who is forced to stand near a smoker or enjoy the leaves on trees. Thus, tobacco is a natural resource, but the tobacco industry's use of a variety of unseemly ecological practices makes them worth questioning.
V. Social Issues
Because the fact that cigarette smoke has the potential to harm so many through second hand smoke, the tobacco…