Abstract Family

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A Parable – the divorce industry of today and the tobacco industry of the 1960's

Hope for lower divorce rates in the future

Cigarette butts

"You've come a long way, baby." -- 1960s advertising slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes, trying to link cigaratte smoking with women's rights

Some divorces are necessary for good reasons such as domestic violence, while others are by mutual agreement of both spouses who might or might not have children. However, most divorces are unilateral and often without good reasons. It is the divorce industry which encourages and enables these kinds of divorces. Many people see the terrible injustice in our family courts which promotes divorce and ruins the lives of 100,000s of children while a few people get rich. But they despair of reforms, since the divorce industry is so large and powerful, and vast numbers of people support the ideals of easy divorce. Many of those parents who chose to divorce are proud of having done so and don't see the pain that it has caused to their children. Likewise, adultery is widely supported in our courts because so many people in authority have cheated on their spouses. How can something so common possibly be brought under control such that our divorce rates start to drop rather than rise?

But we can take heart in looking at the progress of anti-smoking education and legislation over the past forty years, and hope that similar progress can be made against divorce during the next forty years. The disease of divorce won't be eradicated, but hopefully it can be seen as the evil that it is and it can be discouraged rather than encouraged.

The divorce industry of today is at the height of its power. New York was the 50th and final state to pass No-Fault divorce laws. Divorce is a $45 billion industry. Vast numbers of people are unfaithful to their spouses, vast numbers of people divorce, and they are proud of it. In many ways, it is like the tobacco industry of the 1960s. According to a former webpage of Center for Disease Control (CDC), 42.4% of all adults smoked in 1965, much higher than the 19.3% who smoked in 2009.

Consider all of the things that the tobacco industry did especially in the 1960s and divorce industry does today:

  • Sell a product which is harmful to kids
  • Sponsor studies to counter the overwhelming evidence by responsible independent researchers of the negative effects of their products
  • Emphasize "personal choice". Even in the 1960s, tobacco advertising never claimed that cigarettes were healthy, only that everybody should have a "personal choice" to light up whenever and wherever they like, even in airplanes and other crowded public places. Divorce advocates today say that anybody should have the "personal choice" to file a lawsuit against their spouse at any time with no reason required.
  • Try to obscure the fact that the "personal choices" affect others, not just the "buyer". The dangers of second-hand smoke are now well understand. But the effects of divorce on the defendant, children, and extended families are still largely ignored.
  • Market their product as "sexy" and "modern". Old cigarette ads placed cigarettes into the fingers of sleek women and rugged men. Discretionary divorce is encouraged with a promise of a better sex life for those who choose to divorce.
  • Use empty marketing slogans: "I'd walk a mile for a Camel!", "You've come a long way Baby", "Come to Marlboro Country!" etc. Today we have what Elizabeth Marquardt calls "Divorce Happy Talk”, such as "The kids will be fine!" and "Kids will be happy if their divorced parents are happy" -- not to mention other things such as "Divorce is always the fault of both spouses!" to reduce feelings of guilt by its customers.
  • Have products that can kill: lung cancer from cigarettes, or higher suicide rates from divorce
  • Kids are future customers: Teens who start smoking before age 18 will probably been hooked for life; children of divorced parents are much more likely to divorce themselves when they are older.

However, the tobacco industry of today is much different from the way it was in the 1960s. That should give hope to family-law reformers and forcibly-divorced parents of today. Of course today people still smoke and millions still die of lung cancer, and tobacco is still a big business. Many things are better though:

  • smoking rates are down
  • TV advertising of tobacco is banned in the USA
  • selling to minors is banned
  • airlines are all non-smoking
  • most public places are non-smoking
  • Surgeon General's warnings are required on packages
  • heavy taxes are applied in most states
  • the medical risks of tobacco are no longer disputed
Anti-smoking movements of the 1960s and 70s have produced great benefits for society.

Hopefully the family law reform which is gaining momentum today can eventually curtail the worst excesses of the divorce industry. Hopefully, research about children of divorce can expose the hypocrisy of divorce-industry marketing that “the kids will be fine”. Hopefully, recent progress towards Father's rights and presumption of joint custody can continue and in the future we will have curbs on false DV accusations to obtain a divorce – just as anti-smoking reformers gradually made inroads in banning smoking in public place. Hopefully, marriage education can help to educate the public of how to have better marriages and avoid divorce, just as public education in schools has helped a new generation to know the risks of smoking and how to avoid starting this habit. Hopefully divorce rates will start to go back down from around 50% just as smoking rates have gone down from 42%.

We need hope during this time.

Interestingly, Dr. Alan Hawkins came up with the same analogy between divorce reform and smoking reform in his book The Forever Initiative.