The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America

Allan M. Brandt, Author . Basic $36 (600p) ISBN 978-0465070473

Once so acceptable that even Emily Post approved, cigarette smoking is an integral part of American history and culture, as demonstrated in this highly readable, exhaustively researched book: the cigarette's “remarkable success... as well as its ignominious demise... fundamentally demonstrates the historical interplay of culture, biology, and disease.” Brandt, Harvard Medical School's Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine, explores the impact and meaning of cigarettes from cultural, scientific, political and legal standpoints. Particularly fascinating (and shocking) is the scientific community's struggle to prove the harmful effects of smoking, even as scientists found, “in 1946, that lung cancer cases had tripled over the previous three decades.” As any contemporary history of tobacco must, the narrative becomes a tale of the lies, deceit and eventual public exposure of Big Tobacco. But, the author warns, it's too soon for the ever-growing antismoking contingent to think they've beaten the industry: Big Tobacco is busy selling cigarettes to developing countries, threatening “a global pandemic of tobacco-related diseases that is nothing short of colossal.” Though the industry can't be stopped, Brandt says, “understanding the history of cigarettes may be a small but important element in… know[ing] their dangers and hav[ing] strategies for their control”; fortunately, this rigorous history has that first step covered. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/31/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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