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2007-Sep-18 02:43
Allan M. Brandt’s “buy cigarettes Century,” a fat chronicle of the rise and fall of the cigarette in the 20th century, delivers that same ruthful stare. 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 discount cigarettes, 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. Justifiable pleasure? Of course not. What Kant deemed “negative pleasure”? Perhaps. But pleasure nonetheless. Smokers, in Brandt’s view, are midwifed by an array of potent forces: ferocious tobacco advertising; peer pressure; cultural aesthetics (i.e., the imitable artfulness of Humphrey Bogart cupping a smoke); the addictive properties of nicotine; the tobacco industry’s pernicious campaign to obfuscate the perils of smoking; youthful longing for easy rebellion; and even, as evidenced by the boom in smoking after World War I, the scalding stress of trench warfare

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