A Scandal That Shocked The World

Michelle Gindorf

October 2017

Our society needs to take more advantage of certain lawsuits and prosecutions of companies; use them as examples to avoid further damage. What this company did was a crime of such magnitude that it should have prompted the regulators to enforce more care while investigating thriving businesses and any new products being introduced to the market on a regular basis.


There have been many instances where people have lost their jobs at company’s fault, but in this severe case people lost their lives. Looking back at one of the biggest cigarette scandals, Brown and Williamson had unfortunately not caused enough grief and regret amongst people to shut down the tobacco industry. The question is, how many more people need to cut their lives short for this nasty habit before cigarettes are taken off the market? Whether or not the industry wants to admit it, their occupation hurts people. Brown and Williamson, a tobacco company, founded in 1893 by George T. Brown and Robert F. Williamson in North Carolina remains to shock our society today. For over 40 years the company was consciously responsible for thousands of deaths, but what type of impact does this have on today’s society.

“It was very difficult when you were asked, as chairman of a tobacco company, to discuss the health question on television.”
Chairman of Batco, Anthony D. McCormick

The company’s moral code could be labeled as disgraceful. Not only were several people involved, who believed money was worth more than the lives of others, but the entire company continued to encourage smoking in all sorts of ways being more than aware of the risks.

Several years of medical research was secretly conducted within the company, and soon shut down as it came to show how dangerous smoking really is; choosing to withhold said information from the public in order to protect a thriving new business is not only more than ethically shameful but it technically should be labeled as murder. In order to publically keep their company’s reputation clean they chose to continuously find loopholes around taking responsibility for the lives they were consciously taking. They dirtied their hands covering up the evidence of medical studies being conducted on cancer and other tobacco induced medical conditions.

Taking a look at the industries justifications when being addressed about the matter, they state they had encouraged medical research concerning the correlation between tobacco smoke and tumors. In the company’s perspective, an honorable “move” considering they were jeopardizing their own business; unfortunately that perspective is possibly a touch naive to consider entirely truthful; a more realistic reasoning was preserving a good public relations reputation.

What is Zephyr?

William W. Reid about denial – “No industry was going to accept that its product was toxic, or even believe it to be so, and naturally when the health question was first raised we had to start by denying it at the P.R. level. By continuing that policy we had got ourselves into a corner and left no room to maneuver. In other words, if we did get a breakthrough and were able to improve our product, we should have to about-face, and this was practically impossible at the P.R. level. If we could ease the approach, then when we did make positive contributions we could at least say so without having to crawl behind the door.” Understandably for a business this statement is logical, however, it still raises eyebrows.

When the research was being conducted, “Zephyr” was a code word for “cancer” being used in all the documents; ensuring any piece of writing that would be leaked about the dangers of smoking wouldn’t be identifiable immediately. Both British and American tobacco companies were making sure the public was unaware of the concerning research going on which could have potentially harmed the products sales. Brown and Williamson continued avoiding all form of evidence of cigarettes being hazardous publicly being announced by finding ways to further push along the news; continue selling, continue making money.

“Studies Report Excessive Smoking Causes Lung Cancer and Tumors”

“Three months later, in July, the United States Surgeon General issued the first Federal Government statement saying that the weight of the evidence indicated a causal relationship between “excessive” smoking and lung cancer. Continuously coming up with new excuses why tobacco companies shouldn’t be terminated.” Finding several different ways to avoid being associated with any liability concerning the rise of deaths caused by the products they were happily advertising, they began saying “Excessive smoking”, just like anything else in excessive amounts was harmful. This was a way to confirm the damage being created but was a way to twist an excuse to continue selling and blaming the public for smoking “too much” if they are to be diagnosed with disease. This was potentially removing liability from the company entirely.

Merrel Williams

The company was sued by a number of individuals, such as Merrell Williams, who for the harm their products caused, had no form of compensation that could be worth the damages done. Sadly there are numerous other companies, which continue producing these life-threatening substances even today, however, the problem seems to lie within the law system we are provided with. It becomes relatively irrelevant how many more studies are conducted, or the variations the different companies create of the product. Adjusting cigarette filters, which are meant to reduce the risks that come with smoking or whether or not society is aware of its damage, doesn’t disturb the business, as it remains thriving.

USA cigarettes use

Although the number of consumers may have decreased after awareness of the problematic health issues surrounding smoking had been published, the importance remains in the enforcement of new laws and regulations around the matter.

No smoking in certain public areas such as restaurants and high school campuses, age restrictions etc. even second hand smoke is being discouraged. These laws were passed in 2003-2004, whereas the anti smoking movement took up to 45 years. There had been awareness of the risks induced by smoking tobacco around 10 years after the first major company began to become popular on the market. Until smoking is banned entirely, this industry will not lose its great functioning costumer loyalty to consuming deadly products. Again, at the rate this market is rising, new products being introduced which promise to reduce the risks of smoking, have not developed much further than making society aware of the risks they are committing to. The concerning matter remains to be that the tobacco industry may not be the only market with flaws. Possibly many other companies are not publically announcing how potentially dangerous their products are until they have been long part of society. Although, studies began showing the concerning effects of smoke on the human body, it took approximately 45 years until these were publically displayed at a regular rate.

Did we really learn from it? The industry has grown and brought alternatives into the market, which is still being debated whether being better or worse for individuals than smoking regular cigarettes. However, there really has not been a major change since the scandal first hit the news. The problem is yet to be resolved and hopefully encourages other companies from being able to endure similar behavior; threatening the vast majority of our population. To those with an addiction it’s a start to smoke self rolled cigarettes as they contain less chemical substances than ready packaged ones. Vaping has also become a trend rather than an alternative to help out smokers trying to quit, or become healthier. Possibly they have further manipulated society with a newer, technologically advanced, form of nicotine use. It remains unclear whether vaping really is a better option.

Overall, there is much more that needs to be altered when companies of such large capacities have major influence on a significant amount of people. There needs to be further law restrictions surrounding companies product privacy and clearer boundaries of what is meant to be private and kept from the community and what they have the right to know about.

Works Cited

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