Ethos Education

Thank You For Smoking: What makes a job immoral?

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Learning Objective:

  • Consideration of the concept of moral or immoral occupations.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on the definition of an immoral occupation.
  • Analyse Bible verses to determine the basis for Christian morality.
  • Evaluate various occupations in the light of the Bible’s teaching on morality.
  • Synthesise learning by applying Biblical principles to specific situations where ‘immoral’ occupations are being promoted.


Ask the students how they would define what is ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’? What makes something immoral? If they are struggling with this question, the following prompt questions may help:

  • How does the thing affect other people?
  • Could you imagine someone being ashamed of the thing?
  • Would most people consider the thing to be right, wrong, or neutral?

Explain that today’s lesson will help them to think about which occupations could be seen as immoral and why.


Try to come up with a definition of what an immoral occupation is. One suggestion is anything which hurts or devalues ourselves or other people. Get pupils to list examples of what they consider immoral occupations. Ideas could include arms dealers, drug dealers, prostitution, vivisectionists etc. Write these up on the whiteboard to refer back to later.

Introduce the clip from the film Thank You For Smoking (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2005, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the film is about a man called Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) who works for the tobacco lobby in the US, trying to promote smoking and encourage the government not to restrict or penalise the tobacco industry. In this clip we see an example of what he does for a living.

  • Start time: 02.30 (beginning of chapter 2 of the DVD)
  • End time: 06.15
  • Clip length: 3 minutes and 45 seconds

The clip starts with the ‘Joan’ show credits. The first line is Joan Lunden (as herself) introducing Robin Wilder, a guest on her show. The clip ends when Joan announces an ad break. The last line is ‘Hang on; lot more coming.’ Be sure to stop the clip promptly as the next scene starts with a man who swears five words into his speech.

Do the students think that Nick’s job is moral or immoral? What do they think Nick would say in answer to that question? What did they think about the way Nick handled the situation on the television show? Was his argument against the other guests a fair point, or just a clever argument that twisted the facts.

Explain that the concept of ‘immorality’ for Christians is tied up with the character of God. One famous expression of God’s moral standards and his character is found in the Ten Commandments. The prohibitions found there help to define what is moral and immoral. Ask students to complete the Ten Commandments worksheet, identifying what each commandment suggests about God’s character and about what kind of behaviour should be considered immoral. Here are some model answers. If the students need some examples to get them started, you could use some of these:

‘You shall have no other gods before me’; God is ruler of everything; putting anything as a higher authority than God is immoral.

‘You shall not make an idol’; God is the Creator, not just something that was created; downsizing God is immoral.

‘Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God’; God is worthy of respect; disrespecting God is immoral.

‘Remember the Sabbath’; God gives rest to his people; workaholism is immoral.

‘Honour your father and mother;’ God values relationships and families; disrespecting parents is immoral.

‘Do not murder’; God gives life and values life; depriving others of life is immoral.

‘Do not commit adultery’; God values faithfulness; sexual activity in the wrong context is immoral.

‘Do not steal’; God provides for our needs; taking something that belongs to someone else is immoral.

‘Do not give false testimony’; God values truth; lying and deception are immoral.

‘Do not covet’; God offers contentment; jealousy and greed are immoral.

Ask students to consider the list of immoral occupations compiled by the class earlier. Are there any occupations which they would now add or remove from the list? Using the Ten Commandments tackle each one in turn and ask students to explain how they go against God’s character, and why Christians might consider them to be immoral.


Get students to synthesise their learning by applying what they have learnt to specific occupations. Ask them to write a letter from a Christian in response to a friend asking for advice about a job s/he has been offered. You can assign these depending on ability. Possible jobs could include tobacco lobbyist, web designer for dating agency web site specialising in bringing married people together for adulterous affairs, publicity officer for abortion provider, betting shop manager. Students are free to argue that these are moral or immoral occupations, but should demonstrate an understanding of how the job relates to the morality as defined by the Christian understanding of God’s character.


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