• Innovative
  • Applicable


Today, it is hard to imagine that people once considered cigarette smoking glamorous. It’s equally hard to find an adult in the U.S. who has not experienced the devastating affects of smoking, either losing a loved one or battling cancer. The rise of the cigarette left nothing untouched. As it burned through American culture, smoking changed the way industry, government, science and health organizations operate and interact. In this comprehensive, scholarly work, Harvard professor Allan M. Brandt impressively presents a thorough, well-researched, soundly documented exposé about the impact of cigarettes on American life. His user-friendly book is well laid out and easy to understand. Surprisingly, it’s also captivating and emotional. Even cynics will feel outraged at big tobacco’s manipulations, deceit and lies, though Brandt’s evenhanded reporting lets the facts speak for themselves. getAbstract recommends this illuminating work to researchers, public health officials, business historians and laymen alike.


America Lights Up

The first cigarette entrepreneur, James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, “almost single-handedly invented the modern cigarette.” He began manufacturing cigarettes in 1879. By 1885, he employed more than 700 cigarette rollers in North Carolina and New York. Duke remade the industry with a technological breakthrough: James Bonsack’s cigarette roller. With it, Duke could make 200 cigarettes a minute – 60 times more than a skilled hand roller could create. He negotiated a quick, secret contract with Bonsack. To raise demand to equal production, Duke invested heavily in ads and promotions, using coupons, premiums and collectable cards, and targeting teens.

Since cigarettes have few differentiations and are vulnerable to price competition, he focused on consolidation. Duke manipulated his competitors into joining his American Tobacco consortium. He established vertical integration of tobacco growing, and cigarette manufacturing and distribution. By the 1900s, American Tobacco was one of the U.S.’s top three companies. The government disbanded the monopoly in 1911, creating four firms: American Tobacco, Liggett & Myers, R.J. Reynolds and P. Lorillard. Philip Morris...

About the Author

Allen M. Brandt is the Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His books include No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880.

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