I can’t possibly be the only one whose Facebook feed has been infected with sponsored content from the tobacco industry. From a community page titled “Both Sides of the Argument,” an initiative put in place by Japan Tobacco International (JTI), one of the three Canadian companies that were required to pay out $15 billion to Quebec smokers in 2015, has been trying to stall efforts to have plain packaging of cigarettes required across Canada.
In short, the idea behind the proposal is to make cigarettes less appealing to youth by removing branding and instead only having health warnings and simplified brand names in unassuming standard font. After implementation in Australia, there have been numerous studies that prove its effectiveness in reducing attractiveness and consumption. I mean, it seems like a silly thing to draw any sort of ideological line on, but the tobacco propaganda has tried to turn into a public scare that illegal cigarettes (courtesy of those darn First Nations according to some of the more supportive comments) will be more likely to harm young people if they can’t distinguish between the types of cigarettes. Because that’s the immediate issue. Part of the campaign includes video confessionals (that are totally probably unpaid) from people who appear to be and probably most certainly sort of are teachers, law enforcement, and health professionals.
It’s not just the blatant scumminess and overhanded nature of the tobacco industry propaganda that bothers me; after all, most of the comments and engagement is from people who see through it and are vocal in their disdain for JTI and their compatriots. I can live with that because it’s so obvious in its intent and they don’t try and hide their affiliations and backers. Even if they had better arguments or objections at least they would be muddied by the speaker.
What bothers me more is the frame they use, that modern-day, wanna-be-intellectual “radical centrist because I’m above having an opinion” bullshit that assumes that there are in fact two sides to every argument. It’d be the same one that Republican’s might use arguing against updating water infrastructure to not have dangerous lead pipes, or oil companies against safety regulations and contingency plans. While it might sound like there are arguments, in cases like this it’s nothing but unfiltered greed.
I haven’t looked into what the status of the plain packaging campaign in Canada is, but based on just what my increasingly corporate, polarized, and cynical social media intake has given me I’d say they have a stronger case every day. They must if their opponents have to stoop as low as blatantly sponsored fearmongering on a website famous for propagating fake news and social insecurity.