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Showing 1-10 of 25 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 48 reviews
It's a thick, full book, happily inexpensive enough to buy one and take a look. It gives detailed, readable coverage of the rise and success of the cigarette (inhaling--"Do You Inhale? OF COURSE I DO!"--turned the tide in the cigarette's favor). Perhaps the product should be capitalized due to its success and power, i.e., the Cigarette, or King Cigarette). The book includes some court battles into which the author was reluctantly drawn (he had hoped to remain a researcher) but is not a law book. It is history-rich but not statistics-choked, and can be jumped into anywhere and still you'll stay afloat. Being on inexpensive paper made it affordable (unlike an excellent competitor's whose author was very interesting, even compelling, when interviewed on CSpan--but who could afford his doggone $$$ book!). From this book and other sources it is clear that the cigarettes we are exporting by the supertanker-load will kill many millions of lung owners, and nothing will stop it: cigarette profits are very high, enough to blind the makers to other considerations such as, say, morality (well, it is a matter of choice, right?). Unless some pivotal people get religion, it seems that a growing monster is loose. Someone even called our increasing exports of cigarettes the (coming?) greatest mass murder in history. (An aside: Forget about pipes and cigars--you don't inhale a stogie or take a drag from a bowl of Prince Albert.)
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on August 5, 2014
It's been a very long time since I have been so satisfied with the purchase of a book. To wit:

- Considering the sloppiness in the composition of so many non-fiction texts published since the turn of the century, the logic and elegance in the organization of this material is utterly astonishing. To all the lazy SOB's who cough up old weblogs and then call them a "book" - LOOK AND LEARN: this is how the contents of a non-fiction book should be organized!

- The prose is exactly the right match for the material, sophisticated without being pedantic or jargonish (difficult to accomplish once the topic turns to medical diagnoses).

- While exhaustively annotated (70+ pages of notes), the citations do not interfere with the narrative in even a single instance

It doesn't matter whether you think tobacco producers are heroes or murderers - you should buy this book simply to admire and enjoy the sheer craft of it.
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on August 16, 2015
This book is well researched and fascinating in parts. However, I'm still struggling to finish it as the editing is awful. Each paragraph is like a separate quip and overall, the progression from cash crop to massive marketing is disjointed. Maybe the second half will pick up, in which case I will revisit this review, but it's painful to read for at least the first 50%.
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on May 10, 2011
This is a comprehensive story of the cigarette, big tobacco, tobacco research, public opinion and public policy. It's a hefty book, at 500 plus pages, but it was all interesting and readable. One thing I took away from reading this is how big tobacco could not have gotten away with selling their dealy product without the collusion of the congressmen it bought. It also shows tobacco company executives at their most ridiculous when they repeatedly said there was "no proof" that cigarettes cause cancer, even after there was no doubt.
I'll keep this book as a reference.
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on June 17, 2007
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. Lawsuits began to be filed on an increasing level yet the industry was always one step ahead of its detractors. Tobacco companies insisted that safety was a primary concern, but being "remarkably effective in resisting serious health initiatives", they were not. Brandt concludes "we now know a good deal about how this goal was achieved: a careful mixture of reassurance, half-truths, innovative public relations, disinformation, and deception." Calling their actions "the crime of the century", (the title of his epilogue) the author has, by this point, made a careful and compelling argument for that chapter's title.

In my lifetime there have been three major social changes that I've noticed, one being that there are many fewer smokers today in the United States than when I was being raised. Yet, as Brandt points out, tobacco companies learned that if they can't sell as many cigarettes at home they'll export them...with no regard to the health of other nations' citizens. The industry seems to be winning again at the expense of those whose health fails after using their product, creating a pandemic just under the radar screen.

I highly recommend Allan Brandt's "The Cigarette Century". It's an eye-opener, extremely well-written and well-paced, and will either give you a new angle at which to look at cigarettes or reinforce the thoughts you may have had already. I think it is one of the best books of the year.
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on October 13, 2014
It is so sad that the one industry that killed more people then all of our enemies combined and tricked so many children over many generations (more then all the illegal drugs and alcohol combined) got away with murder for so long (with the help of the government).
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on June 15, 2016
Great read for anyone interested in public health
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on August 25, 2013
This is a very interesting cultural and historical background of how the cigarette persisted in sales despite its deadly affect on consumers.
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on June 20, 2007
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. These were sometimes joined by people with ideological reasons for minimizing government regulation.

C) Scientists, who take years to collect good evidence, are careful in their conclusions, but who struggle to be heard though masses of disinformation generated by B), and sometimes wince at exaggerations from A), even as scientific results starts to approach A)'s views.

In both cases, industry funded think-tanks, lobbyists, and a tiny handful of scientists to cast doubt on the science, using similar tactics, and often, employed by the same organizations and people.

As a result Brandt's book is a dandy case study on the twisty interactions of science, economics, and politics, and its lessons may help us analyze other contentious issues as well.
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on February 9, 2014
I would recommend this for anyone interested in public health or the amazing, frustrating history of industry interests in the US.
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