Companies mandating tobacco
Recently, Borland has proposed that tobacco marketing should be controlled by a public agency with a legislated mandate to provide cigarettes in ways that reduce harm. An alternate supply-side approach is proposed in this paper.This proposal is designed to address the problems caused by the supply of cigarettes being managed by business corporations which are designed, built, managed, governed, and mandated to maximise profits, and which are programmed to continue to maximise profits even when doing so may result in human harm.The World Health Organization has documented how the industry uses its economic and political influence to oppose government controls on tobacco products and to maintain marketing freedoms and social acceptability.If tobacco industry actions are characterised as wrong, immoral, or unethical, it naturally follows that the standard tools of rehabilitation and reform (shaming, punishment, and imposed codes of conduct) are the primary approaches governments take to modify industry behaviour.This structural problem, we suggest, cannot be overcome by merely “regulating” the tobacco market, even if such regulations include direct control of the distribution of cigarettes, as proposed by Borland.Regulations in their current form can require tobacco corporations to alter certain discrete behaviours, but they do not weaken or alter the profit seeking drive that compels corporations to find new ways to expand cigarette sales.A more accurate metaphor for a corporation is a machine, a computer program, or a car.Cars cannot feel sorry for the people they hurt, and neither can corporations.
Although particular corporate structures change, the rule that corporate directors must act only in the “best interests of shareholders” has remained firm.
Courts have interpreted best interests to mean the maximisation of profits since shareholder’s value (that is, the price of their shares) is adjusted by the stock market to reflect current and anticipated corporate profits.
This rule helps protect shareholders from the potentially adverse competing financial interests of managers and directors, but it also makes corporations unable to pursue other goals that might be socially beneficial.
Nor do its employees, managers, or directors have the legal right or ability to impose their own morals or feelings on the corporation.
They cannot change the corporation’s sole focus on profit, nor act contrary to the corporation’s mandate.Tobacco corporations seek to expand cigarette sales because they are for-profit business corporations and are obliged under law to maximise profits, even when this results in harm to others.