Cigarette companies have lost touch with reality
Last month, pharmaceutical giant Merck voluntarily stopped selling an arthritis and pain medication, Vioxx, because new data found it doubled patients' risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Vioxx was a blockbuster for Merck with global annual sales of R16 billion.
Merck could have continued marketing Vioxx with appropriate health warnings, but it decided that it was in the best interests of its patients to withdraw the drug.
Cigarettes too double the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Smokers are also 10 times more likely to die of emphysema or lung cancer.
In fact, smoking is linked to 50 diseases, from blindness to foot amputations. So what, as a "responsible industry"Ã¢ have the cigarette manufacturers done to protect their customers?
Did they warn of the dangers and prepare to phase out cigarette sales? Did they? Heck no.
Actually, they did the exact opposite. They hid the facts and tried to sell more cigarettes.
The US Justice Department has charged the companies with behaving like an organised crime syndicate.
In a current court case, US cigarette makers are accused of conspiracy to defraud consumers by denying the dangers of smoking and passive smoking; of funding sympathetic scientists to carry out research to cloud the issue; of manipulating nicotine levels to keep smokers hooked; of intentionally marketing to the youth; of promoting the health benefits of lightÃ¢ or low-tar cigarettes, knowing these were no safer than ordinary cigarettes; and of destroying and concealing documents to hide their illegal activities.
The truth is that the cigarette companies have lost touch with reality and what is considered responsible behaviour.
British American Tobacco, for instance, blathers that government proposals for new health warnings to better inform the public of the dangers of tobacco would cost it "hundreds of millions of rand" ("BAT will oppose changes to smoking laws", October 19).
Once again it puts its own profits above its customers' health and welfare. In sharp contrast to Merck, this irresponsible industry wants to laugh all the way to the bank, while its customers and their families limp to hospitals and early graves.