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The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America Paperback – January 6, 2009


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The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America + Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris + Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465070485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465070480
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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, Havard 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 anti-smoking 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 ... knowing their dangers and having strategies for their control"; fortunately, this rigorous history has that first step covered.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the mid-1800s, cigarettes were considered a curiosity and represented a minuscule portion of tobacco consumption. The transformation of cigarettes into a mass-consumer product would have deep and lasting effects on our cultural values and on our legal and political systems. Brandt, Harvard professor and respected medical historian, was able to examine vast amounts of internal confidential industry correspondence, reports, and memos due to tobacco litigation "discovery" and Internet access. This exhaustive study reveals how the ascendancy of a product that clearly threatens the health of the user caused its manufacturers to deny and obfuscate the facts for decades, meanwhile secretly ensuring that their addictive product would hook an increasingly younger population. The issue goes right to the core of America's belief in freedom and the right to do as we choose, but also the right to live free from the imposition of harm imposed by others from secondhand smoke. Most important, Brandt reminds us that this battle is far from over, as Big Tobacco sets its sights on developing nations, threatening to create a deadly pandemic of global proportion. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Given the size of the book, I was sure I was going to be perusing it only.
M. Glaser
Brandt's examination of the promotional tactics employed by the industry was particularly interesting.
J. Schweitzer
The book is well written, well documented and very readable but we know where the author stands.
Evelyn Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Schweitzer on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an engrossing, exhaustively researched, and very entertaining history of the culture, science, politics and law of the cigarette. While I knew that cigarettes were deadly, the persistence noted in the subtitle caught my eye. While I often think that "no one" smokes anymore, I was shocked to find out that over 400,000 Americans die from cigarettes each year! The figures about globalization and the massive death toll of cigarettes were even more astonishing and dismal.

Brandt's examination of the promotional tactics employed by the industry was particularly interesting. It is easy to forget that the Marlboro Man is not a natural American icon, but the product of an aggressive and highly calculated advertising campaign. I was reminded, too, of the disproportionate number of cigarette and alcohol advertisements in the inner city of Chicago--Brandt's analysis of the industry's interest in racial and ethnic minorities put this in an unfortunate context. One can only hope that policymakers pay attention to Brandt's findings. (Be sure to read the epilogue for an interesting and timely mention of tobacco in current politics.)

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in history, medicine, science, politics; in short, for anyone interested in understanding more about our past, present and future.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on June 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Allan Brandt's new book, "The Cigarette Century", is as comprehensive a study on one subject as I've seen in a long time. Written crisply and authoritatively, Brandt covers the tobacco industry from the end of the nineteenth century through today with cigarettes as his main focus. What he has researched, uncovered and passed onto the reader in an expansive (yet truly condensed) form is terrific. His book is a blockbuster.

Cigarettes have been around for a long while in the United States but not until James Bonsack's rolling machine came into play in 1881 (churning out 200 cigarettes per minute) could they be distributed on a wide-scale basis. It wasn't until World War I, however, that the national demand for the product really took off, and did it ever! Brandt's book is a parallel study of American sociological history of the twentieth century as cigarettes have been at the center of so much of our cultural life. Women began smoking in earnest in the 1920s and Hollywood added its own weight with countless movie stars puffing away in countless films to remind the public of the "joys" of smoking. Advertisements abounded and cigarettes were here to stay.

Along came the 1950s and things began to change. This is where Brandt's book really takes off as he begins to shape the "controversy" between the industry and those determined to warn Americans of the risks of smoking. The Surgeon General's report of 1964 declaring smoking to be hazardous to one's health (later packaging warnings reminded the smoker of the same) was a big first step as the public was beginning to question the safety of cigarettes. While more and more research on the dangers of cigarette smoking was made public, the tobacco companies fought tooth and nail to assure Americans that all was well.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John R Mashey on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, and not just about cigarettes. As evidence of the "persistence" part of the title, candy-flavored cigarettes have a clear target market (<18 year-old). RJ Reynolds agreed in 2006 *not* to call them luscious names like "Twista Lime", "Mandarin Mint" ... but they can still *sell* them.

So, 40+ years after "The Surgeon General has determined..." in 1964, this is still an issue. SG Luther Terry's political skillfulness in getting that report to happen added him to my list of heroes.

This book is much more widely applicable, because it ably chronicles distortion and obfuscation of science by economic and political interests.

Some kinds of scientific proof depend on long efforts to accumulate evidence, need good statistical analysis. Such are not amenable to simple lab experiments, and even when they are, may well not be ethical. ("Here: try this: we want to see if you get cancer" is properly not done.) Topics whose science is of this sort can be prone to long, drawn-out fights, especially when the scientific results threaten strong interests whose best approach is controversy and confusion.

The conflicts over sulfates:acid rain and CFCs:ozone depletion resemble smoking:disease, but the clearest parallel with the latter is the battle over CO2: human-induced global warming.

In both cases, there were:
A) people who believed something (and sometimes exaggerated) well in advance of the science (anti-tobacco moralists, global warming alarmists), and sometimes irritated others by their stridency.

B) people who had economic interests (tobacco companies, oil companies), who took very strong (but opposing) positions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Corlew-Haines on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who doubts the veracity of Brandt's title should revisit the local Piggly Wiggly -- Post, Maxwell House, Nabisco, Kraft, and Oscar Mayer are only a few of the trademarks currently owned by the parent company of Philip Morris. This is a much-needed and painstakingly researched book, and Brandt's credentials make him a highly qualified author. As other reviews have stated, if you're not changing your bologna's name to a four-letter word now, you will after reading a few chapters.
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