Stomping on a cigarette company job ad

Although I'm employed, job ads still catch my attention. After a year-long search for employment, it's hard to turn off the job-seeking reflex. This is why I found myself drawn to a simple, text-only magazine ad during a recent visit to the dentist. The ad - displaying only red and black lettering against a white background - stood out amidst the waiting room coffee table clutter because of its claim that early career workers "can't beat the experience." With my interest piqued, I brushed aside a few glossy US Weeklys and picked up the outdated magazine for a closer look.

A quick scan of the ad only increased my interest. Phrases like, "creating value," and "aligning with society," appealed to my inner social entrepreneur. Mention of leadership development inspired me to read further. Just as I grabbed my phone to text an unemployed friend the website for resume submissions, I finally noticed the name of the company that posted the ad and stopped short. Small print at the bottom of the page displayed the name, "Altria Group Inc."

Those less familiar with Altria might not have hesitated to pass on the job info. After all, the company is a member of the S&P 500 and boasted $5 billion in operating income during 2008. And while the ads mention "satisfying adult consumers" (emphasis added), a casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that the company with the friendly title of "Altria" offers pharmaceuticals or cars to mature shoppers with discerning tastes.

But I hesitated because I know differently. During my public health training I learned that in 2008, Phillip Morris Companies Inc. renamed itself Altria Group Inc. and spun off its tobacco brands. Despite a new moniker and some restructuring, little else changed. The company still sells harmful products that increase mortality and morbidity throughout the world. This knowledge stopped me from passing on the job listing. I didn't want my friend to lend his talents to a company that kills its customers.

So, my subterfuge should qualify as good work, right? Perhaps not. In this era of 9%+ U.S. unemployment, my friend probably won't appreciate that I screened the job ad (sorry Niko). And Altria will likely argue that they lawfully peddle smokes and chew to adults only within clear a regulatory framework. To strengthen this argument critics would point to new, tougher regulations that installed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as overseer of Altria and other American tobacco companies.

Nevertheless, I'm unashamed that I chucked the dentist's back issue of Sports Illustrated. Altria might offer "big challenges" for young leaders, but these involve finding new ways to push products that harm. The world would be a better place without tobacco-related death and disease, and talented people should avoid lending their abilities to companies like Altria. Niko, you're going to have to keep looking...

If you want to learn more about efforts to weaken the tobacco industry, visit www.tobaccofreekids(dot)com.

And, if you want to know where you should not send a resume, check out www.cantbeattheexperience(dot)com.