Should I take a job promoting cigarettes?

Position:THE ETHICIST: Life's full of questions: he's got answers - Brief article


I m competing for a job that would involve doing work for a tobacco company, and I'm very uncomfortable with this. I've graduated from college, and my parents are supporting me until I get a job. If I stand on principle here, it will be at their expense. Should I take the job if it's offered? NAME WITHHELD, TEXAS

HERE'S ANOTHER WAY to put it: Should I take a job persuading people to use a toxic product? If the job involves promoting cigarettes, you must reject it. Cigarette smoking causes more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. You may not honorably work to increase this gruesome tally.

Every task in a society is at least indirectly connected to dubious activities. I used to write for Late Night With David Letterman, a program on NBC, a network then owned by General. Electric, which is a major manufacturer of weapons. When I wrote a bit for a performing monkey, was that the same as making nuclear weapons? I'd say not. Some connections are more direct than others.

And although there are gray areas, a job that...

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