It is extraordinary how the scholarly journal, Tobacco Control, from its curious title to much of the content, continues to be muddle-headed about the tobacco problem.
Let me illustrate with an example from the March 2016 edition. In the section labelled ‘Worldwide news and comment’ we learn of allegations against British American Tobacco (BAT). They have been accused of paying bribes to undermine tobacco control policies. I’m not in a position to comment on the truth or otherwise of these allegations, which are currently under investigation, but what is interesting is that a U S congressman, Mr Lloyd Doggett, is quoted in the Tobacco Control piece as saying:
If true, these allegations would demonstrate a deplorable choice by BAT to balloon its profits through bribery at the expense of the health of millions.
But let us suppose for a moment that BAT and others in the Big Tobacco fraternity are, with regard to the charge of bribery, whiter than white.
In this case, all these companies have made a choice, but not a deplorable one it would seem, to continue to make and sell around 5,600 billion cigarettes each year in a global tobacco market worth £450-500 billion, according to figures from BAT’s website. Balloon, indeed.
There is, however, one little statistic that BAT omits to state. Let me make up this deficiency: worldwide, tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths per year. (Source: the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Mr Doggett is rightly concerned about bribery by big corporations, but let us assume this matter is resolved, so he can sleep better at night. Does he mean, then, that it’s perfectly all right for BAT to balloon its profits at the expense of the health of millions as long as this is done legally?
Text © Gabriel Symonds