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[P]
I only regret that I have but two lungs to lose for my country

By duxup in News
Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 04:59:48 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

The BBC is reporting on a disturbing cost benefit analysis produced by Philip Morris that claims smoking deaths saved the Czech Republic ~147 million dollars in 1997. The report claims that savings came from the fact that government did not have to spend money on healthcare, or housing for elderly smokers because they're dead. The purpose of the report was apparently to deflect criticism from Czech politicians who have recently proposed an excise tax on cigarettes.

Obviously the implication that a government should be happy to benefit through the early deaths of it's citizens and thus not tax the company who produces the product that killed them hasn't gone over too well. Philip Morris has already said that it "deeply regrets" the suggestions made in the reports. Many people have also pointed out that the reports assumes that if people stopped buying cigarettes they would not spend their money on other goods that are taxed.

I have to admit that while pondering Philip Morris's report that I had a few flashbacks of the movie Soylent Green.


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I only regret that I have but two lungs to lose for my country | 16 comments (13 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Czech politicians (4.00 / 5) (#4)
by Sheepdot on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 02:45:46 AM EST

If I remember correctly, the study was in response to a statement made by a Czech politician, or several, stating exactly the opposite, that smoking would increase healthcare costs.

I guess Phillip Morris wanted to call them on their lack of insight in this area, as smokers tend to die abruptly (lung cancer I believe is the fastest killing cancer) and not always have extensive need for health care. Add to the fact that most deny any health care if it was offered, preferring rather to stick it out till they smoke their last cigarette.

Phillip Morris was just communicating to the politicians on their level. Have you ever though about *why* we have "sin taxes" on cigarettes? The argument is that they cause adverse health issues that increase the cost that the government has to spend on smokers. Phillip Morris appears to be showing the government the opposite.

I think all the big tobacco companies have done studies of this nature in the past. Usually it just ends up horrifying the citizens of the country it is written for. But for the politicians, they actually listen to it.

So which side is the "bad guy" in this one? I say both. Phillip Morris should probably just have kept their mouth shut about the issue, and the government shouldn't have made the assumption that taxes should be targetted at people that aren't going to be around to "milk the system" when they get older.


Amoral calculator (4.00 / 3) (#5)
by RavenDuck on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 05:52:18 AM EST

This sort of reasoning is referred to as an "amoral calculator".

A great example was the Ford Pinto fiasco, which occured some decades ago (can't remember exactly when, off the top of my head). Basically it was discovered that when the Pinto was read-ended, the petrol tank (or "gas tank", to you Americans) would rupture, due to it's position above the axle. If the impact was at a certain speed, the doors would jam shut. As you can probably imagine, this could have potentially resulted in a lot of unpleasant deaths. Anyway, Ford knew about the problems, and in an internal memo reasoned that the cost of fixing the problem (a few dollars per car) ended up being more than they would probably be sued for when people died (I think they put a value of something like $20,000 for a death), so they decided to leave it as it was. Hopefully I've got all those details right... Anyway, it's the same sort of thing - corporations translating human lives into dollar values when they do their calculations.


--
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.
Re: Amoral Calculator (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by edwin on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 12:29:48 PM EST

Are such calculations necessarily amoral? To take another example, road safety engineers often have to decide how best to improve the safety of a particular stretch of road. Given a finite budget for road improvements, they will clearly have to calculate how many lives the improvements are likely to save, and how much they cost, so as to target the worst areas first. I would argue that this is the most moral course for them to take, even though it involves "translating human lives into dollar values". I remember hearing aprocryphally that a human life was usually calculated at approximately $50,000.

[ Parent ]
Amoral (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by wiredog on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 12:38:04 PM EST

Amoral is not immoral. The "A" implies no moral view, where "im" implies a wrong moral view.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
It's called a Cost Benefit Analysis (2.00 / 1) (#15)
by odaiwai on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 09:57:58 PM EST

It's called a Cost Benefit Analysis. It doesn't really put a monetary value on a human life, however, it's a little more complex than that.

Whenever there is an accident, there are costs associated with clearing the scene, investigating the accident, paramedical treatment, police involvement, etc. The local highway authority will produce a set of figure which detail how much, on average, a typical accident of a given severity level will cost. In Britain, accidents are graded into:

  • Material Damage
  • Slight injury
  • Severe injury
  • Fatal

I can't remember the exact monetary numbers off hand, but there is a huge leap in cost when fatalities are involved. This is one of the reasons why traffic engineers want to slow down the traffic when people are around. The chances of being killed versus being injured when struck by a car go through the roof if the car is going faster than about 20mph.

<dave>
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]

Top Secret! (none / 0) (#9)
by wiredog on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 12:39:27 PM EST

Wherein Val Kilmer takes out the East German spies by ramming them with a Ford Pinto.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
Fight Club. (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 01:06:29 PM EST

The movie "Fight Club" has another chilling example of this very thing:

JACK (V.O.): "I'm a recall coordinator. My job is to apply the formula. It's a story problem."
TECHNICIAN #1: "Here's where the infant went through the windshield. Three points."
JACK (V.O.): "A new car built by my company leaves somewhere travelling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up."
TECHNICIAN #2: "The teenager's braces around the backseat ashtray would make a good anti-smoking ad."
JACK (V.O.): "The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now: do we initiate a recall?"
TECHNICIAN #1: "The father must've been huge. See how the fat burnt into the driver's seat with the polyester shirt? Very 'modern art'."
JACK (V.O.): "Take the number of vehicles in the field (A), multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X..."
CUT TO: INT. AIRPLANE CABIN - MOVING DOWN RUNWAY - NIGHT. JACK is speaking to the BUSINESSWOMAN next to him.
JACK: "If X is less that the cost of a recall, we don't do one."
BUSINESSWOMAN: "Are there a lot of these kinds of accident?"
JACK: "You wouldn't believe."

(copied & pasted from FC shooting script)

FC is just a movie, but it illustrates the corporate mindset pretty aptly, I'd say. When individual bean-counters cannot be held directly responsible for their inhuman decisions, they are free to monetize human life, and sell people into death for profit. This will continue until we stop treating corporations as people, and instead treat them as groups of people who are individually still responsible for their actions.

-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by mrBlond on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 06:37:08 PM EST

Bought the Fight club DVDs (death to spammers and DVD interface designers!) today, watched it, logged onto k5, read this. To top it off I earlier today read through Ralph Nader's site, following the link from slashdot.

Gonna go look for my Vedder mp3s from the Ralph Nader NYC super rally...
--
Inoshiro for cabal leader.
[ Parent ]

State Lawsuits (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Merk00 on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 08:35:20 AM EST

This reminds me of the State Lawsuits against the tobacco companies for compensation of Medicare costs spent treating smokers. At that point, tobacco companies brought up the fact that it actually saved money because the smokers didn't live as long. Apparently the tobacco companies felt the jury wouldn't buy it and settled. I'm still waiting for a state to go after the tobacco companies on fraud and conspiracy charges.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission

Mostly missing the point (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by Otter on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 03:09:19 PM EST

The spin of the writeup here and of the linked article is that Philip Morris is mounting a "Smoking is good!" campaign. In fact, they seem to be defending themselves against accusations that smoking costs the government money. Such accusations were the basis for the US federal and state lawsuits against tobacco companies that eventually led to the big settlement. It seems clear that after settling up all the costs and including tax revenues, smoking is a big financial benefit for governments.

I'm not a defender of the cigarette companies but it seems sleazy to me to launch lawsuits over cold-hearted gain/loss calculations and then to act outraged when the companies defend themselves with calculations of their own. ("I think it's pretty egregious," said Richard Daynard, Chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project. "You don't see other companies doing it ... this is not the normal way we think about the lives of citizens," he added. ) But the anti-smoking establishment, at least in the US, is so flush with notions of its righteousness that no distortion from them ever surprises me.

Here, here!! (none / 0) (#16)
by dzelenka on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 11:12:29 PM EST

This is just another example of the greed of lawyers/politicians to get their hands on the big piles of money that the tobacco industry has. They will do or say anything to get that money. They are just taking advantage of the suffering of smokers to line their own pockets. Just ask yourself: How are sick smokers benefitting from these lawsuits? Then ask yourself: How are the lawyers benefitting from these lawsuits?

This has nothing to do with immoral calculations, or suffering smokers. This is just a grand play to transfer money from the rich to the greedy.

"Are you talkin' to me?"
[ Parent ]
What is a corporation? (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Jart on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 07:09:06 PM EST

<body> A corporation is a machine designed to make money.
It makes money for it's employees and investers.
The beautiful thing about a machine is that you don't have to know how it works to operate it. In fact, the actual functional details of a corporation are usually kept secret.
If you're an employee you just do your job.
If you're an invester you just throw money.
If you're an employee then it's your balls at stake. Do your job or lose them.
If you're an investor then it's your investment at stake. Vote right at the investor's meetings (board meeting, etc...) or risk devaluing your investment.
Of course everyone looks for good investments and high paying jobs.
Behavior like this can only evolve machines designed to exploit their environments maximally.
Unfortunately it's our environment (biological, economical, ...) that's being exploited. It's like sharing your bedroom with one of those monsters from Alien.
Steadily-evolving environment-exploiting machines are just as grim a threat as nuclear war or nanotech-graygoo. Maybe we should ban them.



<body> A corporation is a machine designed to make money.
It makes money for it's employees and investers.
The beautiful thing about a machine is that you don't have to know how it works to operate it. In fact, the actual functional details of a corporation are usually kept secret.
If you're an employee you just do your job.
If you're an invester you just throw money.
If you're an employee then it's your balls at stake. Do your job or lose them.
If you're an investor then it's your investment at stake. Vote right at the investor's meetings (board meeting, etc...) or risk devaluing your investment.
Of course everyone looks for good investments and high paying jobs.
Behavior like this can only evolve machines designed to exploit their environments maximally.
Unfortunately it's our environment (biological, economical, ...) that's being exploited. It's like sharing your bedroom with one of those monsters from Alien.
Steadily-evolving environment-exploiting machines are just as grim a threat as nuclear war or nanotech-graygoo. Maybe we should ban them.



</body> </body>

doh! (none / 0) (#14)
by Jart on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 07:10:29 PM EST

ok. I'll preview next time.

[ Parent ]
I only regret that I have but two lungs to lose for my country | 16 comments (13 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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