The Cigarette Century | Allan M. Brandt

Summary of: The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America
By: Allan M. Brandt


In the gripping book ‘The Cigarette Century’, author Allan M. Brandt unpacks the extraordinary history behind the rise, fall, and persistence of cigarettes and their impact on American culture. From the pioneering works of James Buchanan ‘Buck’ Duke, who almost single-handedly revolutionized the cigarette industry, to the world wars that transformed smoking from a dirty habit into a war necessity, the summary unravels fascinating stories and strategies employed by the cigarette manufacturers. By highlighting the role of advertising and PR in shaping societal behavior and values around smoking, the summary delves deep into the cultural and historic milieu that cigarettes have thrived in. It is a must-read for people seeking to understand the complex relationship between society, marketing, politics, and the tobacco industry.

The Rise of American Cigarette Industry

The cigarette industry was reinvented by James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, who almost single-handedly developed modern-day cigarettes. He used James Bonsack’s cigarette roller to produce 200 cigarettes in a minute, managed to bring up demand through heavy advertising, and consolidated his competitors into joining his monopoly. By doing so, he made American Tobacco one of the top three tobacco companies of the U.S. Government disbanded the monopoly in 1911, creating four firms: American Tobacco, Liggett & Myers, R.J. Reynolds, and P. Lorillard. Philip Morris became the industry’s fifth primary player. The industry effectively marketed to young people and pushed the concept of brand differentiation by hiring marketing pros and spending lavishly on advertising. By the early 1930s, cigarettes had become a powerful symbol of equality and independence for women.

The Dangerous Deception of Smoking

RJ Reynold’s strategic response to growing health concerns was marked by its advertising slogan – “More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Cigarette”. However, the health risks of smoking were documented by clinicians but never seen as scientific “proof”. The full impact of smoking was not visible until the late 1940s. A comparison of 604 lung cancer patients to cancer-free people showed that cigarettes were the central cause of the rise in lung cancer. The relationship between smoking and lung cancer was then established through clinical observations, population studies, and laboratory experiments. The link existed and doctors and public health officials urged the public to be warned.

Tobacco Industry’s PR Mind Games

The Tobacco Industry used PR to create doubt about the health risks of smoking, resulting in a justification for smokers and a lack of regulation. PR firm Hill & Knowlton played a vital role in this strategy, creating the Tobacco Industry Research Committee to give the impression of an independent think-tank. Clarence Cook Little was the charismatic front man, perpetuating the debate and controversy surrounding smoking’s risks. The industry invested in cultural meaning to motivate consumption, using PR to manipulate the scientific process and continue profiting without regard for public health.

The Rise of the Antismoking Campaign

The battle against the tobacco industry began in the 1960s when it refused to acknowledge the health risks associated with smoking. John F. Kennedy’s Surgeon General, Luther Terry, formed an investigative committee that reported smoking’s health risks in 1964. This was followed by antitobacco advocate John F. Banzhaf III’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission, which was granted one antismoking announcement for every three ads. Health agencies used this opportunity to air millions of dollars worth of public service announcements on the dangers of smoking. In the 1970s, the antismoking campaign gained momentum, and Arizona became the first state to limit smoking in public places. By the 1980s, most employers had antismoking policies, and the smoker’s image began to decline. With an increase in health consciousness, the number of U.S. adults smoking decreased to 30% by 1985.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed