Tobacco in non-fiction literature

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Feb 9, 2017

A colleague of mine recently asked about a good book on the history of tobacco. She was especially interested in the battle waged to establish the scientific evidence about the health effects from tobacco use within the context of tobacco industry deceit and public relations efforts.  At the risk of providing TMI, I shared 3 titles (among a dozen I might have suggested).  I thought our community members might also be interested. 


Richard Kluger won the Pulitzer Prize for his extraordinary book: Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris.  The book has been called a tour-de-force, and I found it to be captivating and compelling.  Kluger narrates a sweeping history of tobacco from it's discovery in the 'New World' through its development as a financial behemoth.  He focuses on the 20th century battle for truth about tobacco and health by looking at the political, financial, medical, legal, social, and marketing issues through the eyes and actions of the key players involved in this fascinating story.


Another enjoyable read, published in 2007 is The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America by Allan Brandt.  The cigarette century is identified as the 20th century, in which 100,000,000 people died from tobacco ( THE TOBACCO ATLAS) and it takes the reader through to the early 21st century in which the World Health Organization predicts a death toll of 1 billion people, 10 x greater than the 'cigarette century.'  Dr. Brandt provides a clear view into the strategies and tactics used to cloud the truth and allow this enormous human tragedy to unfold.


One last book I would recommend is The Cigarette Papers by Stanton A. Glantz, John Slade, Lisa A. Bero, Peter Hanauer, Deborah E. Barnes, and C. Everett Koop.  It gives the real time history of the investigation and fact-finding from secret documents smuggled from the tobacco industry which gave the first shocking glimpses into the planned deception of the public regarding the dangers from tobacco and the extensive effort to develop a more addicting product. 


Or if you would rather just watch a good movie, The Insider with Russell Crowe, and Al Pacino tells the true life story of Dr. Jeffrey Wigand.  He was a Senior Vice President of a tobacco company.  His courageous defection from the  industry and subsequent truth telling cost him a great deal personally, but gave us access to those documents.