For as long as I can remember there were certain career options that were considered bad no matter how you looked at them if you had an interest in the environment. Tobacco was one of the big ones. It seemed like it didn’t matter what they were doing, they were evil. Today when I speak with students who are interested in careers in sustainability they often automatically rule out jobs in any industry they think is by definition ungreen, such as Tobacco. I usually tell them they shouldn’t ignore those companies. They need to go green as much as any other industry needs to, perhaps even more.
Over the years I really haven’t heard anything about Tobacco companies going green. So I was surprised to find an article in a US paper a few days ago about a cigarette company that has been advertising their “eco-friendly’ cigarettes in major magazines such as Esquire, Marie Claire, Elle and Wired. The Cigarettes are additive-free using organic tobacco. The activists (who are of course fuming over this news) say that it is greenwashing a deadly and addictive product. They also bring up the fact that cigarette buts are the number 1 source of litter making them even more environmentally unfriendly.
I am not pro smoking or pro cigarettes and I do not know if there is any hard evidence that the claims by this company are true (I couldn’t find any and the ad does look like a pretty good piece of greenwashing I must admit). But if this company is in fact using organic tobacco and working to make their product and company more eco friendly, is this not what we consumers are asking other companies to do? Is it better that they do nothing? Is it better for the bad guys to just stay bad? Ideally if people didn’t buy cigarettes we wouldn’t need the Tobacco industry at all, but until then we should be pushing them to get their act together just as much as any other industry, perhaps even more.