Deceptive Advertisement in Tobacco Industry

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12 November 2015

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Deceptive Advertisement in Tobacco Industry


       Managerial decisions form an important element in business success. Griseri & Seppala, (2010,p.45) note that the primary function of a business should not only be geared towards profit making but also strive to check the social implication of the business activities The process of decision making is thus governed by the business ethics, moral frameworks and the Social responsibility. This paper will examine decisions made in a tobacco industry, effect on the living and environmental conditions and evaluate if they conform to the moral frameworks of decision making.

       Tobacco companies have constantly employed deceptive advertising strategies. One of them is the use of celebrities from various fields such as sports and media to market their brand. This choice paints a picture of success and pride in using tobacco products and smoking. Moreover, these companies fail to give more details of the tobacco product use and effects. This is in violation of the ‘rights approach’ moral framework in dealing with ethical issues. The rights approach is a traditional moral approach which demands that the rights of individuals (consumers) must be upheld in decision making (Brooks et al 2010, p.197).

       Consumers have fundamental rights as highlighted in John F Kennedy (1962) Consumer bill of rights. One right found in the bill is the Consumers right to safety. Businesses should not knowingly sell to customers products that might harm the customer. Secondly, consumers have a right to be informed. Devenney & Kenny (2011, p.10) say that products information should provide detailed facts on the product ingredients, the risks involved and instructions for usage. By failing to inform consumers of the health risks associated with tobacco consumption, the companies are infringing on this rights to life which are at stake.

       The companies seem to embrace preference utilitarianism. This is a type of Utilitarianism that states that the right action is that which will produce the best results but the best results are those that will satisfy personal preferences (Krantz 2002, p.28.). By not labeling their products and use of celebrities, the company is able to prey on consumers who lack knowledge on tobacco. Tobacco injects money worth millions into the economy, a fact that cannot be disputed. The companies’ duties to ethical practices are overshadowed by the desire to accumulate more wealth at the expense of health concerns of consumers.

       These deceptive strategies have masked the adverse effects of tobacco consumption to health, living and environmental conditions of the users. Tobacco use increases the risk of cancer contraction for vascular diseases and other illness. This results into higher expenditures on medical, lowers productivity and increases premature deaths. The short term effects on living standards include diversion of family income. A research conducted in shanghai china (1995) among 2716 households revealed that 17% of family incomes were spent on cigarettes

       Social responsibility is a major function of any business. Tobacco industries in use of deceptive advertisement have demonstrated unethical practices that raise questions on the commitment of these industries in maintaining a striking partnership of its business core functions and the social responsibility. Governments, human rights activists and stakeholders need to put up laws to regulate the extent at which business may exploit consumers. Without laws, it will be difficult to tame tobacco industries as the moral frame work principles and social responsibility cannot guarantee complete ethical practices in this business environment.


DEVENNEY, J., & KENNY, M. (2011). European consumer protection: theory and practice in Europe. Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Pr.

GONG YL, KOPLAN JP, WEI FENG et al (1995) Cigartette smoking in China prevalence, characteristics adnd attitudes in Minghan District. JAMA

GRISERI, P., & SEPPALA, N. (2010). Business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Australia, South-Western Cengage Learning.

KRANTZ, S. F. (2002). Refuting Peter Singer’s ethical theory: the importance of human dignity. Westport, Conn, PraegerJohn F. Kennedy’s speech, Public papers of the United States, Public Messages, Speeches and Statements of the Presiident, 1 January to 31 December, 1962, pp, 235-43

Brooks, Leonard J., and Paul Dunn. 2010. Business & professional ethics for directors, executives, & accountants. Mason, OH: South Western Cengage Learning.

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