When it comes to the issue of whether or not it is ok for someone the knowinglyaid someone in breaking an agreement I feel it depends on the risks at stake forpeople not knowing what the person has to say.
For example, if I had anagreement with a co-worker to not tell anyone that I had cancer I would be veryangry if someone coerced that person into telling everyone. But on the otherhand if I made that person promise not to tell anyone about a possible danger toall the other workers and someone coerced them into saying something it would befar better for all the workers to know about a possible danger even if I did notwant them to know. In other words the happiness that comes from the workersknowing there is a problem and being able to fix it would far out weigh my angertowards the person who broke the agreement. In the case of big tobacco I thinkthere is a difference. People already know that smoking is bad for you and cancause lung cancer but they continue to smoke. The idea that because the peoplenow know that big tobacco adjusts the levels of nicotine in their cigarettesdoes not mean people will be angry enough to quit.Order now
The only reason why it wouldbe important to know that big tobacco adjusted the levels of nicotine in theircigarettes would be in order to sue them for the fact that they knowingly try toget people addicted to a product that will kill them. But that money should begoing to one place and that would be to pay for all the doctors bills of thepeople dying of lung cancer from being addicted. Utilitarianism would have toagree that the happiness of the people that don’t have to pay more taxes tosupport the people on Medicare or welfare who are dying of cancer from smokingfar out weighs the loss of happiness of the workers of big tobacco. Besides, bigtobacco has enough money to pay all of the lawsuits and still come out on top.
The sad thing is the government is basically becoming big tobacco because withevery lawsuit the prices of cigarettes goes up, but does that mean that smokinghas decreased? No, it has actually started to increase among teenagers, morethan 1. 2 million Americans younger than 18 started smoking in 1996, up from708,000 in 1988, according to numbers released by the Center for Disease Controlin the fall of 1998. Utilitarianism might actually favor not blowing the whistleon big tobacco because all that is happening is the government is just takingadvantage of cigarette addicts and that makes them no better than big tobacco. Iknow that I am no happier now than before big tobacco lost all of their lawsuitsbecause me, and millions of other Americans, have not seen any of that money;whether through tax cuts or, being in the Seattle area, road maintenance. Ithink the hit cigarette smokers take to their wallets, by the increase inprices, creates for more unhappiness than happiness. Kant would say, no anagreement cannot be broken because then you could never make an agreement ingood faith.
If everyone went around breaking their agreements the world would bea terrible place; therefore, in all circumstances agreements must be kept nomatter what. If airing a story on big tobacco might damage you financially Ithink you do need to be guided by the public interest. But in the case of bigtobacco I don’t think it was that big of a deal because the public already knowsthat cigarettes are addicting and that they will kill you. Whether or not bigtobacco adjusts the levels in their cigarettes is not that big of a deal whenthe other aspects of cigarettes are already well known.
The story only seemedbig for the people who could profit from it. You would have to measure how muchof the public interest is at stake before making the decision, and in the caseof tobacco the public knows everything it needs to know to make an intelligentdecision of whether to smoke or not.