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"DON'T forget the cigarettes for Tommy," ran one patriotic British ditty during the first world war. American generals told their government they needed "tobacco as much as bullets"; charities sent cigarettes to the front-line. After the war, non-smokers seemed odd. The crime writer, Agatha Christie, even apologised for not smoking. She had tried many times, she said, but just could not like it.<br/><br/> In this solidly researched, interesting and only occasionally strident book, Christopher Snowdon, an independent researcher, documents the cigarette's journey from patriotic necessity to pariah status. There had always been those who found smoking "loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs," as James I put it in 1604. Some despots, in Hindustan and Persia, went further, slitting smokers' lips or pouring molten lead down their throats. American prohibitionists claimed that smoking led to moral decay; Nazis that it was a decadent Jewish habit. But few non-bigots thought that their personal distaste warranted limiting the freedom of others. <br/> -- The Economist, June 11 2009
I'm not one to write reviews but I wanted to say this is certainly one of the best books I've ever read. Fascinating subject matter and a great writing style that keeps you turning the pages. Read in two sessions, which is just about as quick as I ever do a book. This is a book for free-thinkers, and I'm not sure how many of us there are left.
He has a new one out too, which I can't wait to get my hands on.
I read this book in a couple of days and throughly enjoyed it. It is well written, well researched and is not preachy in any way. Simply put, this is one of the most important books I have ever read and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in discovering just how paternalistic our society has become. 5 out of 5.
I was hoping this book might offer a thorough assessment about all the evidence on passive smoking and some informed and objective conclusions. How wrong I was. Snowdon provides a kind of tour through history about the issue. Only it's a highly selective tour, where any argument which might support his prejudiced conclusion is stretched to the max, while important but inconvenient truths which shatter his arguments are conveniently ignored. Remarkably, there is no proper critique of the main sources of evidence showing that passive smoking is harmful, on which smoking restrictions have been based (e.g. a major 2004 monograph by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a 2004 report by the UK Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, and a 2006 report by the US Surgeon General). Indeed, most of these don't even get a mention anywhere in the book! In contrast, Snowdon appears to have a bizarre obsession about one particular guy called Stanton Glantz, whose name regularly pops up throughout the book as if he were the main architect of our smoking laws!! And Snowdon's approach to interpreting scientific studies is simplistic and inaccurate - needless to say, he offers no external professional references to validate the approach he uses.
This is a jaundiced and deeply flawed account. It is a shame Snowdon lacks the courage to debate an important public health issue in a more thorough and objective way.