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Entry 330, on 2006-05-18 at 13:55:09 (Rating 3, News)
I listened to a commentary on a legal case which was completed here recently. The family of a woman who had died from a smoking-related disease was in court against the major New Zealand tobacco company: British American Tobacco. In the end the family lost the case for various interesting reasons.
The first major part of the case involved the necessity for the company to warn users of the dangers associated with their products. But the dangers were widely known at the time the woman started smoking (the late 60s) and yet she started smoking anyway. That seemed to absolve the company of blame in that area. That seems fair enough. If people do know that a product is dangerous, yet still use it, they really have themselves to blame.
But there were other aspects to this case. The family said that the tobacco company advertised their product in such a way that it trapped people into becoming users because of the positive social connotations attached to smoking. This is undoubtedly true. But should people accept blame for taking advertising at face value? In some ways they should, but now tobacco advertising is illegal, so it seems that the government thinks people can't be trusted to be critical of advertising after all.
In my opinion large corporations have too much influence on our modern society. Most of this power is gained through manipulation of media, mainly television and film. That's not just through advertising, but also sponsorship, using products in television programming and films, etc. Why can they do this? Because they have far too much spare cash to throw at this sort of thing. But maybe it all gets back to human weakness, and how easily influenced people are by blatantly nonsensical advertising. In that case any improvement is unlikely. People will just have to accept the blame for the consequences of being stupid!
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