Wendell Berry on Tobacco

The Problem of Tobacco challenges anyone unsupportive of the tobacco industry, or rather, the tobacco program.  Having lived off the profits of his own tobacco farming, Berry is strong voiced on the topic. His reliance on the crop provides pathos and ethos both, adding to his compelling argument and near irrefutable logic.

The “problem of tobacco” is that while it is a dangerous and unhealthy crop, it provides thousands of farmers and their families with the money to survive.  Because “people continue to use [tobacco], other people will continue to grow it.”  The demand for it isn’t going away anytime soon.  Therefore, we cannot stop selling the crop, and we cannot take farmers out of the equation without hurting them.

Berry also points out that tobacco is often the sole blame for diseases it may only have a small part in causing.  Although the harmful use of the product is inexcusable, other causes of “tobacco-caused” diseases are often ignored, all fingers pointing to Berry’s crop.  Berry mentions that his crop is a small part of the “addictive society” in which we live.  “Our people are rushing from one expensive and dangerous fix to another, from drugs to war to useless merchandise to various commercial thrills.”

Berry argues that tobacco cannot be attacked while other, more harmful substances are ignored, and “the ruin of farmers solves no problem and makes many.”


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