Thank You for Smoking is the first good movie I’ve seen in a long time. The characters are great, the script is brilliant, and it addresses interesting issues like moral relativism, political correctness, and our responsibility to our children. All of this takes place around a man who defends the tobacco industry to the world.
We all know that cigarettes are bad for us. They have been linked to diseases, diminished quality of life, and death. The general consensus is that smoking is bad, and therefore someone who spends their life defending cigarette producers is obviously morally questionable.
But cigarettes are a clear cut case. How about other products that aren’t directly related to death, but harm those who use them or are part of a lifestyle that leads to death? For example, studies have shown that foods high in fat and sugar are addictive, and are the leading causes of obesity. Being overweight has been linked to higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer. Obesity has been identified as an epidemic by the World Health Organization. So are the manufacturers of potato chips and ice cream as morally questionable as the tobacco people?
The other cause of obesity identified by the WHO is reduced physical activity. One of the causes of this is television. A long term study of children between the ages of 5 and 15 found that 41% of those who watched a lot of TV were overweight or obese, and their body mass indices were closely related to the amount of television they had watched as children. The Journal of Pediatrics reported similar findings.
Now your baby can watch TV too!
But instead of striving to limit television viewing among children, providers of television programming are doing the opposite: they are increasing their potential audience by generating programming for toddlers and even babies; and this despite other studies that show a link between toddler television viewing and increased risk of ADHD.
When I was in the hospital after giving birth about a month ago, the freebie woman came around distributing her package of goodies to the new mothers. The package included the usual diapers, wipes, and other baby and mother care products. But this time the package contained something new â€“ and very disturbing. A DVD introducing a new series of shows created just for your baby!
The Yes satellite company has launched a station for new parents and their babies. Part of the station provides advice to nervous new moms and dads, and the second part gives these newbies the opportunity to turn their babies into zombies from an earlier age. The package states that the shows are for six month old babies and will help mothers relax, i.e. get the kid to stop moving around so darn much!
At what price profit?
Yes obviously wanted to expand their subscriber base by offering shows geared towards a never-before targeted demographic â€“ babies. Based on the above quoted studies, and many others, Yes is leading these kids down a slippery slope to weight problems and its related health issues, and even attention disorders. But isn’t Yes only doing what so many other companies do today â€“ try to sell more of their unhealthy and even dangerous products?
One of the tobacco chiefs in Thank You for Smoking aptly describes the cigarette business: “They’re cool, they’re available, they’re addictive. The job is practically done for us!”
It is easy to sell people harmful things that make their lives more convenient or enjoyable, since many of these products tend to create addictions or dependencies. But just because we can technically and legally sell these products or services, it doesn’t mean that we should. Business isn’t just about profit â€“ it’s also about responsibility. The responsibility doesn’t just lie on the shoulders of the consumers, but businesses need to start to share the responsibility for the welfare of their customers.
Or else this may be what’s in storeâ€¦