Capitalism and honesty can make for an awkward marriage. Just look at cigarette manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. In the wake of the tobacco industry's $206 billion settlement, their marketing has less self-esteem than a psychologist's waiting room. Here are excerpts from their studiously self-flagellating Web sites.
"We produce a product that has significant and inherent health risks for a number of serious diseases, and may contribute to causing these diseases in some individuals." ("Our Opinions and Philosophy," R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.)
"We agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers." ("Health Issues," Philip Morris U.S.A.)
Is full disclosure the wave of the future? We wondered, What if other corporate Web sites adopted the same approach? Here's our take.
McDonald's agrees with recent scientific findings that fast food may be "as addictive as heroin." Multiple studies have indicated that eating McDonald's food could lead to serious health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure, obesity, cancer, and many other chronic illnesses.
McDonald's also believes that eating large amounts of high-fat food can change gene expression and that a change in diet can result in withdrawal symptoms, such as chattering teeth and shaking, similar to the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine and morphine. McDonald's cares about the nation's health and firmly backs the President's HealthierUS push for Americans to eat fewer fatty foods and exercise more.
For tips on how to live a healthier life, please consult your doctor, or visit the HealthierUS Web site (www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/fitness).
We at Starbucks understand that coffee can be a toxic substance. Too much coffee is dangerous to one's health, and excessive use may lead to heart disease, acid reflux, and insomnia, as well as pregnancy complications for women. Starbucks also consents that coffee can be highly addictive, resulting in the release of neurotransmitters that produce dopamine and adrenaline. Users build up a tolerance, requiring additional levels of caffeine to satiate their craving. In turn, withdrawal from coffee can cause dizziness, frequent headaches, exhaustion, irritableness, and constipation.
As a corporation, we wish to clarify that while we have claimed to be a proponent of fair trade, less than 1% of our beans actually are acquired this way. Our practices also include the use of rBGH-derived milk (which may lead to cancer) in our stores and ice creams, and the outsourcing of labor to prisoners.
Microsoft is the largest and most powerful software company on Earth. Our products, though often rife with flaws and bugs, are frequently the only option for consumers. This allows us to charge prices that some regard as monopolistic. We are also accomplished in writing code that disables or blocks our competitors' software programs. In the past, we have taken steps to harvest private information from our customers in a continuing effort to dominate more markets and investigate customer preferences.
Using our leverage, Microsoft has been able to reward or punish computer manufacturers for their use of our software. We understand that consumers should have a choice in the software they use, and we agree with the Department of Justice that we have overcharged our customers and clients and limited their software options.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.