“Though I would just as soon get along without it, an humbling awareness of the complexity of moral issues is said to be a good thing. If such an awareness is, in fact good---and if I in fact have it—I have tobacco to thank for it. To many people nowadays, there is nothing complex about the moral issue of tobacco. They are simply against it. They will sit in their large automobiles, spewing a miasma of toxic gas into the atmosphere, and they will thank you for not smoking a cigarette. They will sit in a smoke-free bar, drinking stingers and other toxic beverages, and wonder how smokers can have so little respect for their bodies. They will complacently stand in the presence of a coal-fired power plant or nuclear power plant or a bomb factory or a leaking chemical plant, and they will wonder how a tobacco farmer can have so little regard for public health. Well, as always, it matters whose ox is being gored.”
Wendell Berry in the essay The Problem of Tobacco.
Back to tobacco. All of
Berry’s examples can damage the environment.
However dealing with his other examples mean that society as a whole has to
deal with the problems, even change how they live their lives. Smoking however
can be portrayed as individual weakness. Everything would be cool if those
weak, addicted people would just get their act together. In the meantime all
the other threats to health and the environment keep ticking like time bombs and
any suggestion that structural changes need to be made are met with the “you
are trampling on my personal freedoms’ mantra. Usually very loudly and with
much wailing and gnashing of teeth.