ThankYou for Smoking does a great job showing the role of lobbying, bribery, unethicalmarketing and government interference in business. It also portrays theeffectiveness of argument and the art of “spin” – communicating an idea, orproduct in this case, in a way that changesthe way people are likely to perceive it. Spin is a special skill that the maincharacter, Nick Naylor, has perfected. Lobbyingplays a huge impact on the regulations and laws that are passed for variety ofcategories. Though about the cigaretteindustry, the message of this movie generalizes with so many industries.
Thisfilm also does a great job presenting how business, media and the governmentinteract to influence the choices consumers make. Lobbyingskills are essential for a businessman to have. These skills can be defined aspersuasion, negotiation and being diplomatic and respectable in what one saysand how he presents it.
Though lobbying, like bribery and unethical marketing,can be put as shrewd tactics, they are essential to promote a company orindustry and its product. At times, companies will also go to extreme extentsto obtain publicity, like leveraging on the kidnapping in the film. In thefilm, Naylor gets kidnapped by extremist who cover him in nicotine patches andnearly kill him. When he wakes up in the hospital the doctor tells him that cigarettessaved his life, because no nonsmoker would have survived with that muchnicotine in their body. He later spins this statement and uses it as a positivestatement when interviewed by the media. The company uses the kidnapping asgood publicity and an attempt to gain sympathy.
This is a perfect example ofhow often public figures and the press attempt to use events, good or bad, in theiradvantage to gain sympathy and support for their cause. This is a very commonpractice in both business and politics, and even for actor and actresses in Hollywood.Thefilm depicts the very real idea of bribery in business. Nick Naylor, the lobbyistfor the tobacco company, pays a visit to the old Marlboro Man, who is dyingfrom lung cancer. Naylor brings a brief case full of money to bribe the sickman to stay quiet about the health problems tobacco has caused him. Naylor useshis negotiation skills to convince the man to keep all the cash. This scenedoes a fantastic job bringing up the unethical use of bribery in the businessworld. Bribery may be unethical; however, it is a tactic used in the businessworld to safeguard a company’s stance over its competitors.
Thefilm also briefly touches base on the nature of unethical marketing to childrenand other audiences. In an attempt tomake it seem like Naylor doesn’t want kids and teens smoking he says that he doesn’twant the teenager with lung cancer to die, because then they lose a customer. Withthis statement, Naylor has gone from hated to loved with an easy play onemotion. Cigarette packaging is aimed atteens with the bright colors and characters such as “Joe Camal.” That iswhy Senator Ortolan Finistirre wants to make it mandatory that all the packageshave skull and crossbones on them to indicate that the substances within arepoisonous.
Towards the end of the movie, in front of congress, Naylor statesthat most people know that cigarettes can be dangerous, and the Senator rebuttal’sthat the skull and crossbones will be on the package for those who don’t, likechildren. The notion that the tobaccocompanies are marketing to children definitely touches on the idea of unethicalmarketing. I believe that it is unethical to exploit the fact that children donot understand that the substances within are harmful and that teenagers at ayoung age simply do not care and become addicted, so that by the time they dostart to care about their health, they cannot stop smoking. Going along withthe use of marketing in the cigarette industry, Naylor knows that smoking isn’tseen publicly as it used to be and convinces his boss that cigarette smokingneeds to been seen as cool again, and the way to do that is to incorporate themback into Hollywood movies. Movies use to portray smoking as luxurious and glamorous;this suggests such marketing tactics as product placement in films.
Asmentioned above, the tobacco company was also faced with the problem ofgovernmental interference. The senator wants the symbol for poison on everypack of cigarettes to help inform the public about the harmful effects ofsmoking. For a long time, tobacco companies would ignore the effects of smokingand claim that there was no scientific evidence proving the dangers. When Naylortestified in front of congress he agreed that cigarettes are harmful however,said that the people should have a right to choose without government interference.I agree with Naylor, I don’t think the government should be able to interferewith personal choices especially if the dangers are clearly knowledgeable. Governmentinterference presents itself in many industries, such as the three presented inthe film: alcohol, guns, and tobacco. NickNaylor often uses deliberative arguments to get his points across. This can beseen a lot in the closing scene at the hearing in front of the congressionalcommittee.
Naylor argues that people should not be influenced by poison symbolson packaging and be able to make their own decisions. He argues that peopleshould educated their children and themselves about the harms of smoking, alongwith anything potentially harmful. Naylor also does an efficient job ofdisguising fallacies as legitimate arguments. He uses fallacies throughout thefilm, but in the congress scene he includes faulty analogy, ad hominem, and redherring. Naylor uses faulty analogy when comparing his companies funding toSenator Finistirre’s campaign contributions.
He utilizes the ad hominem fallacywhen he suggests putting warning labels on products such as cars, airplanes,and even cheddar cheese. This is Naylor’s attempt to convince the audience thatcigarettes aren’t the only dangerous products on the market. He claims that ifwe’re going to label one harmful product why not label them all. At this pointNaylor has clearly won the approval of the audience. Clearlyin the film, Nick Naylor’s lobbying, bribery, unethical marketing, deliberativeargument and spin skills get him much further than they would in reality. Inreality, government influence plays a huge role in industries like tobacco andlikely always will. Cigarette packaging does contain a surgeon general warning statingthe products harmful effects that reads, “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and MayComplicate Pregnancy. SURGEONGENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking NowGreatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.
” This warning has not always beenprinted on cigarette packaging, in fact, congress required that all cigarettepackages in the United States have this warning in 1965. I believe if congress alsowanted to add the skull and crossbones symbol to the packaging, it would holdup in court against big tobacco companies, as the surgeon general’s warningdid. Nick Naylor comes out on top in this film because he grows to be a verylikable character. You can see his progression throughout the film from a heartlessbig tobacco spokesman who will say anything to get you to believe his point, toa caring father who is looking out for the best interest in his son. Moviessuch as Thank You for Smoking play a major role on how society portrays a certaintopic, which I find ironic because in this film Nick Naylor stresses theimportance of thinking for yourself.
Films such as this do play a role inpropaganda without the knowledge of the public. However, this film does giveoff a bad stereotype for lobbyist and PR representatives. Although Naylor isportrayed as a sleazy lobbyist throughout the film, we do see him find his moralsand make a turnaround at the end when he denies the job offer. Though this film is a satire, it does a greatjob of outlining the tactics used in business and politics mentionedthroughout.