Product review for Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris
Ashes to Ashes is a monumental history of the American tobacco industry's ironicsuccess in developing the cigarette, modern society's most widespreadinstrument of self-destruction, into the nation's most profitableconsumer product. Starting with its energized, work-obsessed royalfamilies, the Dukes and the Reynoldses, and their embattled successorslike the eccentric autocrat George Washington Hill and the feisty Joseph F. Cullman, the book vividly portrays the cigarrettemakers generationsof entrepreneurial geniuses. Their problematic achievement was based on cunning business strategies and marketing dazzle, deft political powerplays, and a relentless, often devious attack on antismoking forces inscience, public health, and government. Enabling the whole process tounfold was the weirdly symbiotic relationship of an industry geared atany cost to sell, sell, sell cigarettes, and an American publichabituated to ignore all health warnings and buy, buy, buy.
At the center of this epic is thecontinuing drama of the Philip Morris Company and the crafty men at itshelm. The youngest, once smallest entry in the business, it remained an underdog until the marketing brainstorm that transformed the Marlborobrand from little more than a woman's fashion accessory to the ultimateemblem of hairy-chested machismo (and made it America's – and theworld's – #1 smoke). Remarkably, the company's global prosperitymounted steadily even as the news about cigarettes and health grew moredire by the year.
Caught up in the Philip Morris story is the whole sweep of America's cigarette history, from the glory days oframpant hucksterism – when smokers would "walk a mile for a Camel,"Winston tasted "good like a cigarette should," and most of the nationcould decipher "L.S. / M.F.T" – to the bombshell 1964 Surgeon General'sReport that definitively indicted smoking as a killer, to the age of the massive mergers that spawned RJR Nabisco and Philip Morris-KraftGeneral Foods.
Here we learn how the leaf that was the New World's most passionately devoured gift to the Old grew intohumankind's most dangerous consumer product, employing a vast ruralcorps of laborers, fattening tax revenues, and propagating a ring offiercely competitive corporate superpowers; how tobacco's peerlesspublic-relations spinners applied their techniques to becloud theoverwhelming evidence of the cigarette's lethal and addictive nature;and finally, how the besieged industry and the aroused public-healthforces nationwide collided over whether to outlaw the butt habitaltogether or bring it into ever more withering social disdain and under ever tighter government control.
- Paperback: 832 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (July 29, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780375700361
- ISBN-13: 978-0375700361
- ASIN: 0375700366
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds