What were the major social, political, and economic ramifications associated with findings of deception perpetrated by the tobacco industry and cigarette manufacturers?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that examples of deception perpetrated by the tobacco industry have significant social, political, and economic ramifications. One such example would be the testimony and insight offered by Dr. Jeffrey Wigand.  A leading researcher at the Brown and Williamson tobacco company, Dr. Wigand was one of the first voices to speak of attempts by the tobacco industry to deceive the public in the manufacturing and processing of tobacco products.  Dr. Wigand detailed the process of "impact boosting," in which tobacco companies knowingly enhanced the chemistry properties of nicotine in order to make it more addictive to the user:

There's extensive use of this technology which is called ammonia chemistry that allows for nicotine to be more rapidly absorbed in the lung and therefore affect the brain and central nervous system.

Dr. Wigand's testimony was supported by experts who suggested that his claims reflect "that Brown & Williamson's executives had had strong reason to believe all along that nicotine is addictive and that their tobacco products cause cancer and other diseases."

The implications of these findings carry huge economic, social, and political ramifications.  For decades, tobacco executives have testified before Congress and the court of public opinion claiming that they had no knowledge that nicotine was addictive and that nicotine was the cause of cancer and a host of other ailments.  Their deception lies at the root of Dr. Wigand's testimony for both public record and in claims cases against tobacco companies like Brown and Williamson.  Dr. Wigand's disclosure shows that the tobacco industry can be held liable for millions of dollars in medical costs as well as be subject to political regulation in the name of public health and safety.  From a social standpoint, the tobacco industry's deception that Dr. Wigand details helps to fill out the narrative that tobacco is a "sales culture" and generating of profit is more important than any other consideration such as public safety in the production of its product.

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