The aspects of the opioid crisis and tobacco advertisement by physicians are comparable in terms of the engagement of the medical community in these issues. In both situations, physicians, medical associations, journals, and agencies were involved. Their activity was related to creating misconceptions regarding tobacco and opioids and making patients or consumers believe that what they were doing was safe and even improved their health. Moreover, in both scenarios, financial interest was present, as the medical community was sponsored by the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.
Nevertheless, the significant difference between these cases is the fact that, whereas there were studies about the harm and addictiveness of opioids, the medical community still supported the campaign. Perhaps, many physicians simply trusted the medical associations that recommended them to prescribe opioids for pain treatment, ignoring the existing knowledge regarding their addictiveness and the possibility of patients starting to use heavier opioids (Rose, 2018). In the case of tobacco, many were unaware of the harm of smoking for every person who smokes (Gardner & Brandt, 2006). There was a common misconception in the medical community that the harm from smoking strongly depended on the individual characteristics of a smoker.
The conduct of doctors is not morally equivalent in these cases. The reason is that during the tobacco advertisement companies, there were not many studies regarding the common harm from smoking (Gittens & Facione, 2016). Many doctors were unaware of it, as well as medical associations because if the consequences of smoking were known, the issue would have been prevented after the first advertisement companies that mentioned doctors. Nevertheless, these advertisements existed for a long time, even though there were frequent concerns about smoking. The situation with opioids is worse, as doctors who prescribed them were certainly aware of the issues (Hirsch, 2017). Even though physicians were the least cause of this crisis, they were still engaged in it and understood the problems regarding the volume of pills that can be bought at a pharmacy and the addictiveness of the drugs.
Rose, M. E. (2018). Are prescription opioids driving the opioid crisis? Assumptions vs facts. Pain Medicine, 19(4), 793-807.
Gittens, C. A. & Facione, P.A. (2016). Think Critically. Routledge.
Gardner, M. N. & Brandt, A. M. (2006). The physician in US cigarette advertisements, 1930–1953. American Journal of Public Health, 96(2), 222-232.
Hirsch, R. (2017). The opioid epidemic: It’s time to place blame where it belongs. Missouri Medicine, 114(2), 82-83.