Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of "The Little White Slaver"

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9780195140613: Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of

We live in an age when the cigarette industry is under almost constant attack. Few weeks pass without yet another report on the hazards of smoking, or news of another anti-cigarette lawsuit, or more restrictions on cigarette sales, advertising, or use. It's somewhat surprising, then, that very little attention has been given to the fact that America has traveled down this road before.

Until now, that is. As Cassandra Tate reports in this fascinating work of historical scholarship, between 1890 and 1930, fifteen states enacted laws to ban the sale, manufacture, possession, and/or use of cigarettes--and no fewer than twenty-two other states considered such legislation. In presenting the history of America's first conflicts with Big Tobacco, Tate draws on a wide range of newspapers, magazines, trade publications, rare pamphlets, and many other manuscripts culled from archives across the country. Her thorough and meticulously researched volume is also attractively illustrated with numerous photographs, posters, and cartoons from this bygone era.

Readers will find in Cigarette Wars an engagingly written and well-told tale of the first anti-cigarette movement, dating from the Victorian Age to the Great Depression, when cigarettes were both legally restricted and socially stigmatized in America. Progressive reformers and religious fundamentalists came together to curb smoking, but their efforts collapsed during World War I, when millions of soldiers took up the habit and cigarettes began to be associated with freedom, modernity, and sophistication. Importantly, Tate also illustrates how supporters of the early anti-cigarette movement articulated virtually every issue that is still being debated about smoking today; theirs was not a failure of determination, she argues in these pages, but of timing.

A compelling narrative about several clashing American traditions--old vs. young, rural vs. urban, and the late nineteenth vs. early twentieth centuries--this work will appeal to all who are interested in America's love-hate relationship with what Henry Ford once called "the little white slaver."

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About the Author:

Cassandra Tate worked as a journalist for twenty years before earning a Ph.D. in history at the University of Washington in 1995. She currently works in the field of interactive media in Seattle.


"Cassandra Tate has explored the first half century of cigarettes' cultural evolution, beginning when the American mainstream associated cigarette smoking with rough-and-ready boys, dandies, and improper women. In this cultural climate, cigarettes become the object of a broad and impassioned Progressive Era reform movement seeking to ban them....Tate's analysis of the transition to widespread acceptability...explores how and why, by 1930, cigarettes became a standard prop for people of all classes wishing to proclaim their daring and cosmopolitan sharpness." --Reviews in American History

"This fine study...provides excellent perspective on a crucial era as background for today's battles."--Library Journal

"In this original and engaging book, Cassandra Tate traces the first major anti-cigarette crusade--the battle of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries against the 'little white slaver'. Cigarette Wars offers a fascinating and important narrative of the failure of this 'other' prohibition movement as Americans and their new consumer culture embraced the cigarette. As Tate so successfully demonstrates, the battle over smoking provides an excellent vehicle to understand central values in American society and culture."--Allan M. Brandt, Harvard University

"Anyone interested in today's escalating political and legal battle in the long war against the cigarette will applaud Cassandra Tate's timely Cigarette Wars. At last, the first half-century of the bitter cultural war has its historian, or narrator, who has produced a book distinguished by graceful prose, vivid characters and events, and sure-footed judgement. This is narrative history at its best, a story whose lessons for today Tate draws together at the end. Warriors Koop and Kessler, meet Lucy Page Gaston, and the zeal-deflating powers of historical perspective."--Otis L. Graham, Jr., University of North Carolina at Wilmington

"Cassandra Tate has written an engaging, thorough, and illuminating account of early efforts to stamp out cigarettes in America. Cigarette Wars lends much-needed historical perspective to the ongoing controversy over smoking."--Jacob Sullum, author of For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health

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