Passive Smoking: An Active Controversy

Passive Smoking: An Active Controversy

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An Analysis of the print ad
Passive Smoking: An Active Controversy
     Our society uses media in various ways to coerce an audience to buy a certain product, believe a specific message, or assume a certain belief based on a particular ad. These ads appear in many different forms, consisting of television commercials, billboard ads, and print ads. To analyze a given message, an individual must be open-minded and be able to distinguish what the underlying theme is. Often times the message being portrayed to the consumer consists of numerous fallacies. In the print ad run from the R.J. Reynolds Company entitled Passive smoking: An active controversy, cogent reasoning is needed to analyze the message suggested to the readers. The R.J. Reynolds Company is using this paid advertisement to make readers believe that passive smoking is not harmful to one’s health.
     Interpreting the ad, we find that R.J. Reynolds Company is stating that the reader is sensationalized by the media and is only feed the information that second hand smoke is harmful. In defense of their stance, R.J. Reynolds took it upon themselves to do their own research. In the ad, they reveal several studies that were conducted by “distinguished experts” stating that passive smoke is indeed much less harmful than believed by the average person. R.J. Reynolds Company states that these reports are “far less sensational-conclusions.” These so-called expert findings came from conferences that were held in Geneva, Switzerland, Bethesda, Maryland and Vienna. The advertisement goes on to state that the presidents of the two organizing groups (who are not doctors) state in a press release that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer have not been successfully linked. They also state that cardiovascular damage due to ETS also has not been linked. The ad closes with a statement that attacks legislation for heightening the fears of non-smokers and making them believe that ETS is not only harmful to their health but can also be deadly.
     The ad Passive Smoking: An Active Controversy, is a paid advertisement by the R.J. Reynolds Company. Keeping this in mind while reading the article, the company naturally puts an extra effort in getting their own message across to the public. The average American citizen is not ignorant and knows that ETS is harmful and can have a detrimental effect on the body, especially the lungs. The claim made in this ad suggests that the media sensationalizes ETS but after R.

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J. Reynolds research, they found that the effects of ETS are far less harmful than one is led to believe. This theory is stated throughout their ad, with no viable evidence to support it.
     R.J. Reynolds Company states that three conventions were held around the world to rule out numerous theories that ETS is harmful to an individual’s health, but never states the findings that were presented at these conventions let alone the doctor’s names that conducted the studies. The ad states that “distinguished experts” came up with the findings. Who exactly are these distinguished experts? They are not defined in their advertisement. For all the reader knows they could be average individuals with no more expertise them themselves. A distinguished expert could consist of a car salesman or a waitress. Without clarification or the correct credentials how is a reader supposed to believe the findings of a distinguished expert?
     In the advertisement by the R.J. Reynolds Company, inductive reasoning is used to “prove their findings.” The entire message uses several broad examples to come to a final generalization that ETS isn’t harmful to one’s health. This generalization can be coined such because it is just that, a generalization. There is no core evidence of justification that results in a medical conclusion, which can be backed by a medical professional. After dissecting the article, it consists purely of questionable statements where no medical or academic evidence is shown to support its findings. Among these statements are numerous fallacious arguments.
     The R.J. Reynolds Company failed to use relevant information and reasoning from unjustified premises during their entire message. They hoped for the reader’s ignorance with each statement they made. They stated in the ad that cardiovascular damage was not due to ETS, but do not show the supporting evidence to base this on. They did not prove this statement, but lead the reader to assume that it must be true. By using this fallacy, the tobacco company is assuming that its readers are ignorant and will not question their sources stated in the ad. The use of appealing to authority is used. R. J. Reynolds wants the reader to believe the word of their distinguished experts, but who knows if they are really expert professionals, and that they the tobacco company aren’t just alleging their authority. To make a strong statement and prove their case, R. J. Reynolds should have presented statements from medical professionals with certified credentials. A third fallacy used in the ad is suppressed evidence. R.J. Reynolds states the “evidence” that they have found, but never mention the proven medical findings informing consumers of the dangers of ETS. This paid advertisement by the tobacco company is simply a statement without any factual evidence.
     The R.J. Reynolds Company makes a poor attempt to try to convince its audience that ETS is not harmful to one’s health. In order to make a convincing argument an ad must entail credible research, as well as the credentials of certified professionals making the claims. The title was unfittingly labeled Passive Smoking: An Active Controversy due to the fact that it isn’t an active controversy. This ad was trying to make it a controversy by switching the reader’s viewpoint, but accomplished the opposite. It makes the consumer believe even more in the harmful effects of second hand smoke because the ad lacks sufficient evidence to prove its point.
     As we continue to become a more media based society, ads of this nature will continue to fill our magazines and newspapers. It is up to the consumer to develop a true understanding of rationale and legitimate advertising. The ad that the R.J. Reynolds Company published on passive smoking should serve as an example to readers that companies will say just about anything to sell their products.
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