Recent legislation proposed by the Australian government would force tobacco companies to use plain, logo-free packaging on their cigarettes, in an attempt to make the products less attractive to consumers.
But Australia isn’t the first government to regulate tobacco in effort to stomp out the industry’s hold on the health of millions of consumers.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration now has full authority to regulate the tobacco industry and has already banned flavored cigarettes. This June, tobacco companies must reveal their formulas for the first time, just as drugmakers have for decades. Manufacturers also will have to turn over any studies they've done on the effects of the ingredients.
Despite well-known health effects, tax increases, and numerous anti-smoking campaigns, tobacco manufacturers continue to battle government regulation and argue that decreased cigarette sales will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in a legitimate, legal industry. U.S. tobacco manufacturers have rallied together and filed suit to halt the FDA’s efforts to limit their marketing, claiming the new law violates their right to free speech.
But instead of fighting government efforts to help eradicate an addiction that kills five million people globally per year, perhaps tobacco manufacturers should be looking at ways to keep their industry alive. Tobacco, as a plant, has many other uses.
Nicotine in tobacco form is linked to millions of death from cancer, heart disease and emphysema, but recent studies show the drug may benefit neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Other researchers have been working on a method to modify the tobacco leaf for use as a biofuel, which scientists argue would alleviate dependence on major U.S. food crops such as corn and soybeans as alternative fuel sources.
VHS has gone the way of Blu-ray, CDs to MP3 players, typewriters to computers. Products come and go, but those industries that are innovative and look for alternative uses for their products will survive. Even the publishing industry scampers to adapt from print to a Kindle and internet-driven world.
Tobacco companies need to take a page from history. As tobacco production continues to decline worldwide, the industry’s argument that more government regulation will destroy jobs is futile -- a losing battle. Tobacco companies needs to spend less time fighting social and federal efforts and more time looking for ways to become a positive force in a growing health- and environmentally-conscious global marketplace. Or else, the industry will just burn out.
Don't agree with Amanda? Read Karen Langhauser's take on the issue: Judging A Book Without Its Cover