Perhaps, through knowing Grace, Prudence has changed. Perhaps she is able to be compassionate towards tobacco smokers. Even if it might be their fault that they took up the smoking habit, she reasons, can one hold them responsible for not quitting? Prudence decides the answer is, “No”.
In the form of cigarettes, nicotine and other constituents are an addictive complex the likes of which were never seen. Firstly, there is the permanence of the addiction: once an addict, always an addict. Many tobacco users can expect to never be free of the cravings.
Second, there is the biological and chemical engineering of the base product, tobacco. Today’s tobacco probably bears little resemblance to the product sold fifty years ago. Through plant hybridization, along with the use of chemical additives, the contemporary tobacco’s addictive potential far outranks that of its predecessors.
Finally, there is the sales and marketing system whose single function is to maintain a chain of production, sales and consumption of tobacco (and related nicotine-delivery products such as gum and patches). That chain is, in fact, a chain of enslavement. Human beings are the means of producing wealth by funneling a drug—nicotine—into their bodies.
Once that faucet is opened, it can never be closed. The wealth-gatherers are as addicted to their chain of income as the smokers are to their tobacco.
Maybe it makes no difference what Prudence thinks, whether she is compassionate or not. A non-smoker cannot understand the smoker’s experience. Perhaps the only true compassion can flow from one smoker to another.