I am sure that there are very few people out there today that aren’t aware that having more than 20 or 30 extra pounds on their bodies, or sucking down cigarettes, may actually be bad for them. Though it isn’t safe to assume that 100% of the population is privy to this “knowledge,” it is really quite hard to imagine that the negative affects of cigarettes and obesity aren’t inherently understood by everyone, let alone after reading article upon article verifying such facts. So, does the recent Reuters article, Obesity, Smoking Add Years to Cells’ Age actually surprise anyone?
I hope not.
Yet, if such knowledge is so widely held, why do we allow such destructive practices to continue to occur?
The obvious answer is that we let these practices occur because they are difficult to stop. Just ask anyone who has tried to kick smoking, or the person who is trying to shed 40 lbs. of weight… Drastically changing one’s life in such an extreme manner is no simple task.
But maybe we are asking the wrong questions. If these “habits” are so hard to kick, beyond the consumer’s ability to overcome them with sheer willpower and effort, but also because they are perhaps engineered as such, is it ethical for companies producing the goods that eventually lead to obesity and smoking to continue to produce them?
Cigarettes are highly addictive, but so is the act of eating fast food. The marketers of both items see to that—their livelihoods depend on it. The fancy fellows in R&D are equally in a position of ensuring that their products taste the best, produce the best feeling and make the consumer want more. When do these individuals and companies need to stop and evaluate how their actions are contributing to society? Is it right for you to continue to make a product that you know affects people in a negative way? Do you rest on the fact that people have free will and don’t need to buy your product? When is it time to hit the red button?