Thinking Outside the Pack

From Harvard Magazine:

CigCigarettes, observes Robert N. Proctor, Ph.D. ’84, “remain the world’s single largest preventable cause of death,” and following roughly 100 million tobacco-related deaths in the twentieth century, far more mortality “lies in the future”—an estimated billion deaths in the twenty-first. The author, now professor of the history of science at Stanford, has written a large, and hotly passionate, book on the subject, Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition (University of California, $49.95). From the prologue:

This is a book about the history of cigarette design, cigarette rhetoric, and cigarette science. My goal is to treat the cigarette as part of the ordinary history of technology—and a deeply political (and fraudulent) artifact.…It is also, though, a story of how smoking became not just sexy and “adult” (meaning “for kids”) but also routine and banal. The banalization of smoking is one of the oddest aspects of modern history. How did we come into this world, where millions perish from smoking and most of those in power turn a blind eye? How did tobacco manage to capture the love of governments and the high rhetorical ground of liberty, leaving the lesser virtues of longevity to its critics? And what can we do to strengthen movements now afoot to prevent tobacco death? Think again about the numbers: in the United States alone, 400,000 babies are born every year to mothers who smoke during pregnancy. Smoking is estimated to cause more than 20,000 spontaneous abortions—and perhaps as many as seven times that. Seven hundred Americans are killed every year by cigarette fires, and 150 million Chinese alive today will die from cigarette smoking. Tens of thousands of acres of tropical forest are destroyed every year to grow the leaves required to forge the nicotine bond.

More here.