Vice Squad
Monday, May 07, 2007
Lazy Post, Referencing A Book Review that I Managed to Read

That is, I managed to read the review, not the book -- even this is a triumph for those of us who set the bar low enough. The review, written by Jonathan Miles, appeared in Sunday's New York Times. The book is Allan Brandt's The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. Miles admits to being a smoker, and hence is a bit perplexed, perhaps, by a curious omission within the rather thorough volume: "Brandt, a professor of the history of medicine at Harvard Medical School, canvasses giant chunks of terrain here — the culture, science, politics, law and global spread of the cigarette, to cite just his section headings — without ever pausing to examine the central, vexing paradox of smoking: that in return for death, cigarettes give pleasure." Miles concludes his lively review on a similar note:
Additional tort action, and ramped-up regulation now that tobacco support has become more of a political liability than an advantage, seems likely to further chip away the number of domestic smokers until just a few of us will remain, huddled in the rain 500 feet away from any possible contact with others, impoverished from taxes and life insurance premiums and the inability to pass a nicotine-finding blood test in order to get a job. Yet the essential conundrum, succinctly stated in a 1961 tobacco-industry memo, will remain: “There are biologically active materials present in cigarette tobacco. These are: a) cancer causing; b) cancer promoting; c) poisonous; d) stimulating, pleasurable and flavorful.”


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