The cigarette A political history

Sarah Milov, 1984-

Book - 2019

"The Cigarette: A Political History offers a fresh interpretation of tobacco's role in the twentieth century. It argues that tobacco played a vital and emblematic role in the history of twentieth century political economy. Far from being unregulated, tobacco was the most controlled and supported commodity produced in the United States during the twentieth century. The federal tobacco program was remarkably long lived, lasting nearly seven decades and ending only in 2004. By the 1960s, criticisms of the Tobacco industry and its state support were ubiquitous. Under the banner of "non-smokers' rights," by the mid-1970s activists began to rack up an impressive string of victories in curtailing public smoking at the loca...l and state levels. By the final decades of the twentieth century, debates over tobacco were waged primarily on the terrain of its social cost. By placing tobacco at the center of American political economy, The Cigarette: A Political History joins the politics of the body to the American body politic."--

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Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press 2019.
Main Author
Sarah Milov, 1984- (author)
Physical Description
394 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. Tobacco in Industrializing America
  • 2. Tobacco's New Deal
  • 3. Cultivating the Grower
  • 4. The Challenge of the Public Interest
  • 5. Inventing the Nonsmoker
  • 6. From Rights to Cost
  • 7. Shredding a Net to Build a Web
  • Conclusion: "Weeds Are Hard to Kill": The Future of Tobacco Politics
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

In this well-researched study of the history of the cigarette in the US, Milov (Univ. of Virginia) delves into the politics behind cigarettes, also touching on social aspects and health and economic issues related to the product. She illustrates the interconnectedness of tobacco companies with the federal and state governments, highlighting how state governments appear particularly addicted to tobacco money and thoroughly examining federal policies regarding tobacco farmers, expressing some sympathy with their plight. She also extensively examines the rise of the anti-tobacco movement from its beginnings in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, when both public-interest lawyers and grassroots activists began demanding nonsmokers' rights to nonsmoking workplaces. She appears to also sympathize with the anti-tobacco movement, though she notes its class and, to some degree, racial biases. It is disappointing, though, that the author accepts the science of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as settled when some prominent studies have found no risk from ETS. In addition, she does not consider whether smoking bans have financially hurt the hospitality industry as business owners' opinions are mostly absent. Despite some flaws, this book adds much to understanding the role cigarettes played in US history over the last century and is a worthy read for people interested in the topic. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. --Jeremy Monroe Richards, Gordon State College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The cigarette in America, a history that "does not begin and end with Big Tobacco."Milov (History/Univ. of Virginia) mixes big-picture academic theory with fascinating, specific details to illuminate the rise and fall of tobacco productionand cigarette salesin the United States. In 1965, writes the author, "politicians, experts, and everyday Americans increasingly knew that cigarettes were deadlyyet 42 percent of Americans smoked." The estimated number of smokers today is 15 percent. Milov shows how sales were boosted by the combined efforts of tobacco growers, wholesalers, retailers, industry lobbyists, public relations professionals from the private sector, labor unionists, and players within federal, state, and local governments. Then she explains how the increasingly well-documented health hazards from cigarettes led nonsmokersincluding public-interest lawyersto push local governments and employers to curtail smoking in public places and workplaces. At intervals within the mostly chronological narrative, the author discusses how tobacco farmers and cigarette manufacturers managed to sell their products in countries all over the world, with deadly consequences for consumers but positive economic consequences for foreign governments through the taxation of those consumers. Mostly, though, Milov focuses on American politics and the consumers affected by the policies surrounding cigarettes. At times, the author engages with philosophical questions: Is smoking a legal "right"? Do nonsmokers have a "right" to reside in a nonhazardous environment? Who should decide those rights when claims conflict? Throughout, Milov offers intriguing historical tidbits: For example, cigarette sales shot up during both world wars because U.S. military leaders decided the troops would feel appreciated if they received free cigarettes while deployed. In addition, the author shares compelling information about why labor union leaders wanted smoking allowed on the job even after the deadly nature of cigarettes became evident. The leading insight: Unions did not want to surrender control over what became mandatory smoking breaks.A fine history of "the political economy of tobacco." Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.