Free Essay: Lawsuits against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Unethical Practices, LawSuits and Advertisement)
Clow & Baack (22) define ethics as morally or professionally acceptable guideline, which determine people’s behavior. In the world of business, unethical advertising refers to the use of unorthodox, misleading and utilizing false claims about a service or product to convince customers to make a buying decision. This occurs through misusing details about the product or misrepresentation.
Oftentimes, advertising and marketing messages elicit controversial ethical issues, since they affect people’s perception of their identity (Foley 9). While this is the case, most advertisers operate under codes and rules to maintain quality and content of ads at all times.
Lawsuits against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Cases against tobacco companies in Florida have been on the increase since 2009. During this period, complainants filed 8,000 cases, of which 19 out of 25 favored the defendant. For R.J Reynolds, they lost 15 cases, as the court ordered the company to pay a sum of $252 in the last four years. Importantly, the law does not allow cigarette-manufacturing companies to advertise cigars using cartoons because they appeal to underage population in the society. Whilst this is the case, the company published four pages of cartoon ads, labeled “collaboration between Camel and independent artists and record labels.” The irony of it is that the magazine targets readers aged 12 and 17, who were convinced to try the products in the adverts. Additionally, investigative reports indicate that B&W and RJR are involved in international cigar smuggle business, which is illegal.
In 1997, the court ruled against Joe Camel, arguing that the ad lured readers below 18 years to try smoking. The jury argued that the advert caused young readers to start or continue smoking, leading to unprecedented illness and insecurity in the society. Importantly, the advert was effective and attractive, portraying the product as Mickey Mouse and appealing to children to engage in smoking. According to the charges, R.J Reynolds was marketing a dangerous product to an underage audience, with the intention of luring them into trying and becoming addicts (federal trade commission 1).
As part of paying for the damage, the court ordered to create public awareness on the effects of smoking and discourage children from smoking. To enhance the healing process, the company was also to conduct corrective advertising and disclose information about its products without misleading users. Complainants in the case argued that smoking poses a range of health risks, lung cancer and diseases of the heart. It is necessary to have the legal smoking age because of the lethal effects and the high chances of one dying prematurely. According to plaintiff, the company was aware of the effects of its products, in terms of their appeal to underage people. Thus, terminating the campaign was justifiable.
In a case in which R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was sued for causing the death of Laura Grossman in 1995, a South Florid court gave a verdict in favor of the defendant. The court awarded $37.5 million to the deceased’s family of which $22.5 million was to punish the company and discourage it from promoting smoking among teenagers by engaging in responsible advertising (Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Jan Grossman 1). In defending its position, R.J. Reynolds laid the blame on Laura’s husband, because she had failed in supporting his wife to stop smoking. However, the court compelled the company to pay $15 million to compensate the family. According to family members, the victim started smoking at the age of 15 since the ads aim at winning teens into trying alcohol.
To strengthen the case, the defense anchored its case on false labels, which the manufacturer used on cigarettes, with full knowledge on the effects of smoking but chose not to disclose the information to users and potential smokers. The court held that sickness and death were directly associated with smoking.
Craver (1) observes that it was double tragedy for R.J Reynolds when the court affirmed the Eagle Pogency ruling, noting that no one violated the company’s rights. According to the case, the company was to compensate people with complications stemming from tobacco products. On the other hand, lawyers representing the company wanted evidence to prove that tobacco users lacked information about smoking and that the company knowingly promoted and defective products. Nonetheless, the judge bench only required evidence to affirm that smoking causes death.
Covington (1) notes Janie Mae received $20 million after the US Supreme Court held that she died of lung complications stemming from smoke addiction. According to the judgment, the victim’s habitual drinking of 40 years largely caused lung complications and ultimately death. However, tobacco companies want the court to annul Florida Supreme Court ruling, which allows smokers to file in class action because of its broad nature. This denies manufacturers an opportunity to defend their stances in lawsuits.
In summary, ethics are essential as they determine what is right or wrong in a particular setting. To maintain moral and social responsibility in the corporate world, the government has guidelines in terms of codes of ethics. When companies engage in unethical advertising, it may withhold crucial details or use deceptive messages to win underage children. In recent past, cases against tobacco manufacturing companies have increased because they do not disclose information on the dangers of smoking on adverts and product promos. These messages further lure underage children to get into smoking. For example, cases against R.J Reynolds reveal that its death casualties started smoking when they were teens. Many users became addicted because of the company’s false communication to consumers.
Beelman Miller. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Center for Public Integrity, “Global Reach of Tobacco Company’s Involvement in Cigarette Smuggling Exposed in Company Papers,” February 2, 2000.
Catherine Taibi. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Loses $37.5 Million Battle Over Lung Cancer Victim, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/rj-reynolds_n_3697648.html, 2013. Retrieved on 1st December 2013
Clow Klein and Baack Daniels. Integrated advertising promotion and marketing communication” 3rd edition”: prentice hall
Federal Trade Commission. Joe Camel Advertising Campaign Violates Federal Law, FTC says: Agency Charges R.J. Reynolds with Causing Substantial Injury to the Health and Safety of Children and Adolescents under 18, http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/05/joecamel.shtm, May 1997, Retrieved on 1st December 2013.
Foley Cate. Misplaced marketing commentary. Journal of consumer marketing, 16, 220-22, 1999.
Owen Covington. $20M award in smoking lawsuit against RJR, Liggett will stand http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2012/11/26/20m-award-against-rjr-in-smoking.html, 2012. Retrieved on 1st December 2013.
Richard Craver. Setback for R.J. Reynolds in decision emerging from class-action suit, http://www.journalnow.com/business/business_news/local/article_8197876e-1754-11e3-9f59-0019bb30f31a.html, 2013. Retrieved on 1st December 2013
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