How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction

So the world’s leading consulting company doesn’t only park their ethics at the door by helping the evil Sackler family sell more opioids and kill even more people, they also help Juul addict teenagers to nicotine. Ok, so Purdue Pharma wasn’t the exception to the rule I thought it was for McKinsey. They actually embrace evil doers! You’d have to say that those folks don’t buy off on the idea that “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Let’s see how that goes for them.

The consulting firm’s work with opioid makers is well known, but for decades McKinsey worked with Big Tobacco and has also advised Juul, the e-cigarette company.


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How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction

McKinsey now had another reason to back away from Big Tobacco. But the tobacco companies wanted to keep selling cigarettes, so McKinsey stayed to help them do just that. In addition to Philip Morris, the firm’s clients included R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Brown & Williamson, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

More health warnings followed.

In 1992, the federal judge H. Lee Sarokin became so outraged reading internal industry documents produced in a liability lawsuit that he cast aside judicial restraint when he wrote: “Who are these persons who knowingly and secretly decide to put the buying public at risk solely for the purpose of making profits and who believe that illness and death of consumers is an appropriate cost of their own prosperity!”

In response to mounting criticism, in 1993 Lorillard’s chief executive, Andrew Tisch, asked employees to cooperate with McKinsey, assuring them that the consultants were “renowned for their ability to solve problems and create opportunity.”

By taking on Lorillard, McKinsey agreed to help a company whose best-selling cigarette by far was Newport, with its high nicotine content and menthol flavor. Menthol masked the harsh taste of burning tobacco, making it appealing for novice smokers. Nicotine took care of the rest, turning them into repeat customers.

McKinsey did allow employees to opt out of helping Big Tobacco, or any other industry they found objectionable, but finding replacements eager to impress senior partners critical to their advancement was usually easy.

In 2006, a federal judge, Gladys Kessler, delivered the harshest condemnation yet of cigarette makers, branding them civil racketeers, saying the industry had “marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success extracted.”

How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction

How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction

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“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC