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Should I quit tobacco job?

Question :

I have a good career in front of me, but I’m losing faith in my company. I work in procurement for a major tobacco distributor, which never bothered me before, but recently I’ve been having second thoughts – maybe it’s all the anti-smoking adverts. I like the job and the company is serious about personal development, but I’m not sure I can really find fulfilment given the product. Is it worth quitting over? (Pardon the pun)

Posted by Gordon on Saturday, 22 Nov 2014

Comments :

I can certainly relate to your concern, as I was in the same boat before when I used to run a department for an international tobacco company many years ago. The company also provided world-class career development and competitive compensation. I decided to leave, the company, but it was a hard decision to make at the time.

The first question to ask yourself is: “Should I work for a company that I consider socially irresponsible?” This seems straightforward, but we can argue that the definition of “social responsibility” is not as clear as black and white.

It is a fact that tobacco companies produce products that are harmful to our health. However, these companies and products are legal, and they even launch anti-smoking campaigns to discourage people from smoking.

Commercial organisations often treat social responsibility as a lower priority on their corporate agenda. For example, soft drink companies produce products with sugar that can lead to obesity; some clothing factories pollute our rivers and seas with their chemicals; weapon manufacturers make products that kill people; banks create products that have the potential to cause major personal financial crises – the list goes on.

The following six questions may also give you some insights:

  • Do you believe in your company’s product?
  • Are you hesitant to give your name card to your friends and relatives because you are not sure how they would think?
  • Would you refer your friends to work for this company? 


If you answer “no” for the above, then answer the following three questions:

  • Are your skills and knowledge deployable to other industries?
  • Can you find an alternative employer who is also serious about career development?
  • Would you be happier to be associated with a product or service that you are keen to promote?

If you answer “yes” to the above, then I think you know what to do.

Most of us want to work for an organisation of which we are proud. We need to make a personal choice based on our own ethics and moral standards to determine whether an employer aligns with our beliefs. It is not an easy question. It is probably a good time to question this at this stage of your career.

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