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Ashes to Ashes

by Richard Kluger

Book list The debate over smoking has become, quite literally, one about life and death. These books by Glantz and his coauthors and by Kluger will both become instant landmarks in this debate and in the history of the tobacco industry. The story behind Glantz's book is as significant as the book itself. The title is more than just a pun; it also acknowledges parallels with Daniel Ellsberg and the so-called Pentagon Papers. Glantz runs a cardiology lab at the University of California^-San Francisco, and his studies on the effects of secondhand smoke have had enormous impact. He has also used NIH grant money to investigate tobacco company campaign contributions and lobbying. In May 1994, a box containing 4,000 pages of internal Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company documents was mysteriously delivered to Glantz's office. These documents seem to offer irrefutable evidence that as of at least 30 years ago, tobacco companies were aware not only of the harmful health effects of smoking but also of nicotine's addictive quality. The drama involving B&W's attempts to suppress these documents and Glantz's success in getting them into the public domain includes UCSF's library, the Internet, and the California Supreme Court. Now Glantz finds himself under attack and has had his funding eliminated by Congress. The previously anonymous sender of the documents, a paralegal temp working for one of B&W's law firms, faces criminal contempt charges. The result is The Cigarette Papers. It extensively quotes and analyzes these documents, which include company-sponsored research, public relations strategies, legal opinions, etc. Kluger, a journalist and author of several books, including Simple Justice: The History of Brown vs. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (1976), is more dispassionate, though his book's dedication--to his "life's companion who is all too familiar with the subject" --betrays his sympathies. His epic social history looks at the culture and commerce of the cigarette. He uses Philip Morris as his guidepost, detailing the company's advertising campaigns, battles for market share, and reactions to various antismoking crusades. Kluger analyzes Philip Morris' move to diversify and become less dependent on cigarette sales, and he exposes the industry's efforts to exploit markets in Asia and Eastern Europe. More than a company history, this massive, fascinating work is a valuable social document. --David Rouse

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Two recent releases chronicle the history of the current political status of the controversial tobacco industry from different vantage points. Kluger's (The Paper, LJ 10/15/87) Ashes to Ashes is riveting and highly readable despite its length. From the Native American usage of tobacco through the lawsuits of the 1990s, Kluger follows the industry's agricultural and labor practices, technical advances, and marketing campaigns; he also considers research on tobacco's deleterious health effects and the tobacco control movement. Significant personalities and events such as the invention of the cigarette-rolling machine are featured. An extensive bibliography is provided, and a lengthy list of the Phillip Morris executives (and ex-executives!) are interviewed. Suitable for readers of high school age on up, this book belongs in every library. Much more scholarly, The Cigarette Papers focuses more on one company?Brown & Williamson?and one issue?health effects. In 1994, Glantz received an anonymous package containing thousands of pages of internal documents from Brown & Williamson. The author's analysis of these indicate that, public statements to the contrary, the company did indeed know about the health and safety effects of their products and actively sought to suppress the information. The documents, made available by the University of California via the Internet (http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco), are quoted extensively. Also included is a statement by Brown & Williamson in response to the 1995 publication of some of these data in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This work is extemely thorough and at times makes for tedious reading. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Eris Weaver, Marin Inst. for the Prevention of Alcohol & Other Drug Problems, Rohnert, Cal.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly The time is right for a comprehensive history of cigarettes in America and their effect on public health and the economy. This book, passionate yet measured, bulky but absorbing, looms as definitive. Kluger (Simple Justice) traces the rise of the cigarette to the onset of mass production in the late 19th century. He moves forward with cross-cutting stories, about the barons and hucksters who developed the industry, the slow rise of medical and civic concern over smoking and the industry's increasingly obfuscatory and combative stance. Kluger has harsh words for government regulators, long too timid to take on a powerful industry. And while he ultimately indicts industry leader Philip Morris, his narrative suggests that the company, which has moved overseas and also diversified into the food business, has been managed with supreme savvy. Kluger concludes with an innovative policy remedy: because the tobacco companies will inevitably lose big in court someday, why not trade a federal exemption from lawsuits for limits on advertising, higher cigarette taxes, an end to tobacco price supports and required reductions on tar and nicotine? (Apr.)

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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