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Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris
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Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Ashes to Ashes is a monumental history of the American tobacco industry’s ironic success in developing the cigarette, modern society’s most widespread instrument of self-destruction, into the nation’s most profitable consumer product. Starting with its energized, work-obsessed royal families, the Dukes and the Reynoldses, and their embattled successors like the eccentric a ...more
Paperback, 832 pages
Published July 29th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
This book is a beast. At over 700 pages and dense as hell, it's not a quick read, but it stands as a highly revealing history of an industry that was (once) economically unstoppable, politically powerful, and undeniably harmful.

The book follows two main strands of inquiry over the course of a century. First, the importance of marketing in making and breaking the fortunes of the major industry players like Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds. The detail here is truly exhaustive and I admit that some o
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Phew! It took some getting though but I finally managed to finish the book. This book is definitely not a page turner, but to be fair to the author, the subject does not lend itself to being a page turner. Having said that, I have read other books on similar topics that are far more captivating.
Moving on the content, this is probably as comprehensive a book on the tobacco industry as a lay person might want. The book has three broad themes; one of the evolution of the industry from chew tobacco
Sep 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
For the most part, a fascinating history of tobacco and tobacco companies that answers many questions you may have had about cigarette branding & advertising. Just who was Philip Morris anyway? Later, it becomes a polemic as the author gleefully chronicles the lawsuit era.
Paulino Silva
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author takes you to the depths of the smoking industry and their relentless effort to increase their profits and disclaim all the health and moral hazards of smoking. At over 700 pages and dense as hell, it's not a quick read, but it stands as a highly revealing history of an industry that was (once) economically unstoppable, politically powerful, and undeniably harmful.
Theodoros Iaponas
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very detailed history of the smoking industry

The author takes you to the depths of the smoking industry and their relentless effort to increase their profits and disclaim all the health and moral hazards of smoking.
Kevin Stephany
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you're still naïve enough to believe the government and big business have your personal interest at heart, read this book.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel like I’ve been reading this book all year. An incredibly dense history, more focused on the 1960s and onwards, about the cigarette industry. Not a fan of smoking in the first place, this book revealed the lengths to which cigarette manufacturers went to to market their wares at each turn of public sentiment and scientific publication. You almost stand in awe of their twisty-turny logic (and also a lot of disgust. It also opened my eyes to all the different industries these behemoth compan ...more
Tin Wee
Jan 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This books outlines the rise of the tobacco industry in America, focussing primarily on the health concerns that arose primarily after WWII, reaching its peak only in the 80/ 90s. The book puts forth a case that the industry did know about the potential health concerns through its own research, but chose to consistently discontinue/ suppress research which could more conclusively prove causality between smoking and lung cancer/ heart disease. /the book also highlights the current concerns with E ...more
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Colleen by: found it at library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
I wish I could have finished this book. It was just so dry and way too in depth. I picked this up wanting to get a better understanding of just how shady the tobacco industry is. I didn't need it to explain how the body metabolizes nicotine or the myriad of other chemical reactions that takes place and while an overview of the history of is to be expected I didn't really need to know it's history in detail from the time of the fricken bronze age. By the time I got to the meat and potatoes of the ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
nonfiction (history/business/politics/science). These rat bastards strike me as alarmingly similar to the businesses and industries who continue to claim global warming is not a real, proven thing, bribing Congress to loosen environmental sanctions so that they can continue to amass millions/billions in profits at the cost of public health and well-being. And for everyone's sake, I hope that marijuana is as safe as its users believe it to be (they really haven't done enough studies to know for ...more
Austin Gaghadar
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and thought provoking read about real issues and institutions within our society. Extensive history of the cigarette industry in America and the health claims and other struggles that the industry was dealing with up to the publication of the book. Amazing job done tying together the legal, social, psychological, health and business relations to cigarettes throughout the book and still telling a comprehensive story. However at times there seemed to be too much detail and the boo ...more
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Incredible depiction of how the tobacco industry manipulated policymakers and the public to distort the debate about the health risks and regulation of tobacco. The lessons the industry learned have been adopted by the NRA and the food industry, with the former closely replicating the biggest successes of cigarette manufacturers (preemption and libertarian rhetoric) and the latter realizing they need to figure out a strategy to reign in the damage of sugar and fat content before the government t ...more
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Didn't think it was possible for me to think less of cigarette manufacturers but this book made that happen. To know what they have known for so long and to continue to peddle cigarettes in the way that they have is just incredible. This exhausting story of the history of the cigarette industry is fascinating in the way that the industry has manipulated so many in the quest of dollars. I use examples from this book in my economics courses--you can't make up better examples of predatory pricing a ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kluger has written an encyclopedia documenting nearly every mover-and-shaker in the history of Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds, as well as legions of anti-smoking activists trying to hold them accountable. The book starts in workmanlike prose, but gains momentum as Kluger examines the 1960s onward. Interesting details--the mechanization of cigarette rolling, the reasoning behind the classic ad jingles.... But you will feel frustration as you learn of the industry's slippery lies and their seeming ...more
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating. It was a bit slow to start, but by the end (warning: it's almost 900 pages of pretty dense history) I had a much better grasp of the history, science, and politics of the tobacco industry - both in America and internationally - than I had ever had before. He writes with various people, companies, and interest groups as protagonists, like a sprawling Latin American family epic, and is remarkably even-handed at the same time as he recognizes the indisputable medical/moral aspects of s ...more
Jewell Anderson
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: societal pundits/ social historians
V. interesting, Pulitzer winning treatise on this most pernicious industry. And, while the author does manage to successfully imbue the characters with enough, well, character to keep readers engaged I found the pace a bit dulling. This is another "by read I mean didn't finish" (see also: Bury The Chains); however I may get back to this one...
Bridget Reed
Nov 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Really incredible detail and revealed a lot of things that I was completely in the dark about. Difficult to read due to the sheer depth of information that makes it difficult to keep the companies and characters in order.
Adam Schweigert
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sooooo looong. That said, if you're really interested in public health and corporations' ability to thwart government action then this is a worthwhile read. Just know that it's very dry and goes into excruciating detail.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
For those who is (or was) working in cigarette/tobacco company, this book is deserved to read. A pullitzer-price winner, a bit dense and tiring with a lot of fact, but anyway an eye-opener of this industry.
Constantin Manuel
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book. I always wondered how cigarettes became such a huge moneymaker despite the obvious health risks. This book answers those questions and more. This is one of the best books I read all year.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

This book alternates between being extremely fascinating and extremely tedious. I only wish it were a little newer, and thus more relevant.
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Yawn. Terribly dry and unexciting. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember trying to like it.
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Oct 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Big book but interesting history of cigarette industry.
Kevin Ng
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I like the book, and it gave me a lot of history and background about cigarette companies.definitely worth reading!
Paul C
rated it liked it
Oct 02, 2018
rated it liked it
Aug 01, 2017
Angus Hsu
rated it really liked it
Jun 26, 2018
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Richard Kluger is an American author who, after working as a New York journalist and publishing executive, turned in mid-career to writing widely lauded books on U.S. social history. His two best known works are Simple Justice, generally regarded as the definitive account of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision outlawing racially segregated public schools, and Ashes to Ashes, a critical ...more
“At one stage in the heated intramural debate, ex-ACS president and longtime director Alton Ochsner took the floor and regaled his eminent colleagues with a tale intended to disarm those still unpersuaded by the proof against smoking. There was a certain Russian count, Ochsner told them, who, suspecting his attractive young wife of infidelity, advised her that he was leaving their home for an extended trip, but in fact posted himself at a nearby residence to spy on her. The very first night after his leave-taking, the count watched by moonlight as a sleigh pulled up to his house, a handsome lieutenant from the Czar's Guard bounded out, the count's wife greeted the hussar at the door and led him inside, and in a moment the couple was seen through an upstairs bedroom window in candlelit silhouette as they wildly embraced; after another moment the candle was blown out. "Proof! Proof!" said the anguished count, smiting himself on the brow. "If I only had the proof!” 1 likes
“Output had fallen to about half that figure in the last years of the Red empire, causing a cigarette shortage so severe that Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev was forced to stave off rioting by emergency bulk purchases from foreign manufacturers—20 billion units from Philip Morris was the largest single order—paid for with Russian oil, gold, and diamonds.” 0 likes
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