Now you have placed a full-page advert in most of the broadsheet newspapers, in which Soho appears as an isolated smoking-permitted area on a map of London. The headline is: "Where will they draw the line?"; underneath, the copy reads: "The passion to regulate down to the finest detail of people's lives can lead to infringements of personal liberty." The message appears to be that restrictions on smoking in public places are a step too far. Those who seek to combat tobacco and its effects are thus branded as zealots and health fascists.
This is striking stuff.
Yours must be the first advert for many years in favour of smoking that has not had to carry a government health warning about the dangers of cigarettes. But more significantly, your advert proves that the tobacco industry regards the passive smoking issue as its Achilles heel. As you have realised, by altering the terms of the debate from the rights of smokers to kill themselves to the hazard posed to innocent bystanders, the social acceptance of smoking is critically challenged.
There is no doubt that passive smoking adversely affects non-smokers' health. The effects extend from pneumonia and bronchitis in the first year of life, and glue ear and impaired lung function in childhood, to lung cancer in adults. The risk is small by comparison with the hazards of active smoking, but real, and it has been recognised by every independent group of scientists to examine the issue. The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified environmental tobacco smoke as a definite human carcinogen and the British government has accepted that it causes about 300 deaths each year from lung cancer.
The tobacco industry's pleas for "freedom" for smokers to light up where they want have to be seen against the rights of non-smokers not to have to breathe in other people's smoke. In that conflict, the non-smoking majority's rights to have their health protected must prevail.
The industry likewise demands the right to promote its products by advertising and sponsorship, infringing young people's rights to be free from untruthful messages linking smoking with sporting success and putting them in jeopardy of a lifetime of dependence. Smokers' inability to quit despite wanting to and in the face of proven smoking-related disease is the biggest restriction of personal liberty.
If Philip Morris seeks a right to defend, it should be one that is basic to smokers and non-smokers alike: the right not to be harmed by toxic smoke components. You should modify your cigarettes to eliminate them. So far you have shown little enthusiasm for that.
MARTIN JARVISReuse content