For decades, the tobacco industry has promoted myths of relative product safety to reduce consumer anxieties and sustain markets. Waves of litigation that deemed the tobacco industry financially and morally culpable for smoking disease also exposed internal company documents demonstrating that claims about product safety (e.g., “light” cigarettes) were strategically misleading. In the US, the tobacco industry now engages with public health via a different set of strategies than in the past, including corporate social responsibility claims and a renewed emphasis on potentially safer cigarettes. In this article, I examine some economic and ethical paradoxes of these contentious strategies, focusing on Philip Morris’s unlikely support of legislation granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulative authority over tobacco products. The company’s engagement with public health is a means of limiting corporate liability, deflecting risk assumption for smoking disease onto consumers, and broadening harm reduction approaches to enable the tobacco industry's competition with the pharmaceutical industry’s medicinal nicotine products.
KeywordsConsumer choice Cigarettes Tobacco Public health Harm reduction Industry regulation
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