Puff Away, Happy CEO!

I always give people the benefit of the doubt when I first encounter them. I also avoid judging folks when I know them, and I try not to judge people I have not even met!

Louis C. Camilleri

But Louis C. Camilleri tries my patience. He is the CEO of Philip Morris International, Inc. Recently, in response to a stockholder who is critical of the company making and marketing cigarettes, he said,

We take our responsibility very seriously. I don’t think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit. . . . There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers. 

Where to begin?

First, as most any smoker will tell you, it is very difficult to quit. People do it, yes, but usually with enormous personal effort–and usually after many unsuccessful attempts.

Second, he actually seems unconcerned that his company makes, and markets, a product that is both harmful and addictive. I wonder how that feels when he is alone, by himself and looking in the mirror.

In the process, moreover, he provides evidence in the current efforts to eliminate government programs and instead trust our economic system to solve our problems. “Turn it over to private enterprise, and all will be well,” say many people who oppose government programs.

They have good points, of course. There are things companies can do well, very well. And there are things government cannot do well, and should not do.

But Mr. Camilleri reminds us that a top, if not the first, priority of business is to make money, to produce a return for investors–and if that means manufacturing and selling harmful, addictive products . . .  well, so be it.

Oh, Mr. Camilleri, thank you for your honesty, even if it seems misguided, incorrect, and even inept. I am praying for you–and I am trying not to get judgmental in my prayer, just asking for your well-being.

I also continue to pray for all my friends and their families and friends and all the others who are still trying to quit smoking, and those with emphysema.

2 thoughts on “Puff Away, Happy CEO!”

  1. Robin wrote:

    “Second, he actually seems unconcerned that his company makes, and markets, a product that is both harmful and addictive. I wonder how that feels when he is alone, by himself and looking in the mirror.”

    While I agree that his comment, “…it is not that hard to quit”, may be short-sighted, I am always curious as to why our society chooses to put the blame on others rather than looking at self. Ultimately, the issue comes down to choice – at some point, an individual made the choice to become a smoker and bears some part of the responsibility. Unfortunately, our choices are sometimes based our desire to fit in or to “look cool” around our friends without considering the consequences of those choices.

    While I may not agree with Mr. Camilleri’s comments, the responsibility to make sure that I and my family are safe and healthy lies with us and not some corporation that society views as “evil” because of what the corporation manufactures. I would argue that if we look close enough at many companies that produce products we put into our bodies on a daily basis, we would be horrified. However, we are the ones making the choice.

    P.S. – It’s nice to keep up with you via your blog.

    1. Chip, I certainly agree that each of us is responsible for what we take into our bodies, indeed into our lives (provided we are not under duress). And I am sure other things being manufactured are not good for us either. So no one executive, or company, is alone to be blamed, for what we do. So the question–for the executive, the company, and ourselves as individuals–is this: is what I (or we) do, worthy of us, worthy of our shared humanity, worthy of our being children of God?
      Thanks for replying, and helping to clarify the role of responsibility.

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