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Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris Paperback – July 29, 1997
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"A great battleship of a book - formidable, majestic...armed with anabundance of revealing information, guided with discerning literaryskill.... Mr. Kluger invites one to admire these moguls of tobacco theway one appreciates, say, Lenin - as brilliant strategists andresourceful technicians ...single-minded in their determination to satisfy [a mass want] and heedless of the human cost of their profit making." A behind-the-scenes history of an industry "whose structure, power, andgrowing vulnerability are so richly illuminated by this monumental andtimely book."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"[Ashes to Ashes is] monumental...elegantlywritten.... It will probably be the definitive volume of the subject ofcigarettes in the 20th century."
-- Time Magazine
"Lively, entertaining, awesomely comprehensive.... The quality ofKluger's work astonishes throughout: He actually persuaded many toptobacco executives to talk with him.... Getting the kind of good stuffKluger pulls together is just about miraculous."
-- The Washington Post
From the Inside Flap
No book before this one has rendered the story of cigarettes -- mankind's most common self-destructive instrument and its most profitable consumer product -- with such sweep and enlivening detail.
Here for the first time, in a story full of the complexities and contradictions of human nature, all the strands of the historical process -- financial, social, psychological, medical, political, and legal -- are woven together in a riveting narrative. The key characters are the top corporate executives, public health investigators, and antismoking activists who have clashed ever more stridently as Americans debate whether smoking should be closely regulated as a major health menace.
We see tobacco spread rapidly from its aboriginal sources in the New World 500 years ago, as it becomes increasingly viewed by some as sinful and some as alluring, and by government as a windfall source of tax revenue. With the arrival of the cigarette in the late-nineteenth century, smoking changes from a luxury and occasional pastime to an everyday -- to some, indispensable -- habit, aided markedly by the exuberance of the tobacco huskers.
This free-enterprise success saga grows shadowed, from the middle of this century, as science begins to understand the cigarette's toxicity. Ironically the more detailed and persuasive the findings by medical investigators, the more cigarette makers prosper by seeming to modify their product with filters and reduced dosages of tar and nicotine.
We see the tobacco manufacturers come under intensifying assault as a rogue industry for knowingly and callously plying their hazardous wares while insisting that the health charges against them (a) remain unproven, and(b) are universally understood, so smokers indulge at their own risk.
Among the eye-opening disclosures here: outrageous pseudo-scientific claims made for cigarettes throughout the '30s and '40s, and the story of how the tobacco industry and the National Cancer Institute spent millions to develop a "safer" cigarette that was never brought to market.
Dealing with an emotional subject that has generated more heat than light, this book is a dispassionate tour de force that examines the nature of the companies' culpability, the complicity of society as a whole, and the shaky moral ground claimed by smokers who are now demanding recompense
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The main story threads are the growth of the tobacco industry, development of an understanding of the health issues and the cigarette industries responses to them, the marketing of product, government responses, the growth, changes in various of the main companies over time - especially the rise of Philip Morris to the major global player (It is this story I found the least interesting - there are a lot of discussion of company politics and paragraph introductions to some fairly insignificant corporate players), and the growth of the anti-tobacco forces. I thought the coverage of a major court case (Cipollone v cigarettes companies) was particularly gripping.
My wife read the updated kindle version when it arrived and didn't find many text errors at all.
This is the first non-fiction work I have read on the kindle and I missed the ability to use an index, but it is useful to have the bibliography here.
Overall I can highly recommend this work but hopefully the kindle version can be corrected to become as fascinating a story as the paper version.
It got a little dry towards the end, and the whole indictment of the industry has gotten a bit repetitious; I suspect at the time the book was published the message was new, but the message has gotten old fast. (Yes, it's clear that they knew about the health issues, and yes, they did very little about it.)
Overall it's a good read, especially the first half. If you're at all curious about how the cigarette industry came to be, the book does a great job of describing the companies and personalities involved.