Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition

I can’t wait to get my hands on a book coming out in February, written by a Stanford professor about the evils of the tobacco industry, called: “Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition”

Ouch, but $44.95? I think I’ll wait to see if I can get a used copy.

In this book, Robert Proctor (I’ve seen his name around in a few articles I’ve read), takes on the tobacco industry and argues the industry is not dying, but people still are.  Obviously, with the term “Holocaust” in the title, this book is no shrinking violet. I personally have called tobacco a “slow motion Holocaust,” having watched what it did to people in my mom and dad’s generation.

I’m quoting liberally from a Stanford University article, which you can read in full here:

One author calls it “a remarkable compendium of evil” while another reviewer says “unpacks the sad history of an industrial fraud. [Proctor’s] tightly reasoned exploration touches on all topics on which the tobacco makers lied repeatedly to Congress and the public.”

Sounds like the kind of thing that will get my rage on. It sounds like it pulls no punches.

Big Tobacco tried to stop the publication of the book, actually subpoenaing Proctor’s emails and his unfinished manuscript and costing him $50,000 in legal fees.

Two other powerful quotes from the book.

For the industry, though, the cigarette represents the perfect business model. “It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive,” says investment guru Warren Buffett.

Proctor notes that “by artfully crafting its physical character and chemistry, industry scientists have managed to create an optimally addictive drug delivery device, one that virtually sells itself.”

Proctor explores several tobacco myths in the book. Among them:

Myth #1. Nobody smokes anymore. If you read the media, smoking sounds like a dying habit in California. That’s far from true, said Proctor. Californians still smoke about 28 billion cigarettes per year, a per capita rate only slightly below the global average.

So why do we have this illusion? “We don’t count the people who don’t count. It’s not the educated or the rich who smoke anymore, it’s the poor,” said Proctor.

Myth #2. The tobacco industry has turned over a new leaf. “The fact is that the industry has never admitted they’ve lied to the public or marketed to children or manipulated the potency of their project to create and sustain addiction,” Proctor said. “A U.S. Federal Court in 2006 found the American companies in violation of RICO racketeering laws, and nothing has changed since then. And the same techniques used in the past in the U.S. are now being pushed onto vulnerable populations abroad.”

Myth #3. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. Proctor pointed out that most people begin smoking at the age of 12 or 13, or even younger in some parts of the world. “Do they know everything?” Proctor asked rhetorically. “And how many people know that cigarettes contain radioactive isotopes, or cyanide, or free-basing agents like ammonia, added to juice up the potency of nicotine?”

Myth #4. Smokers like smoking, and so should be free to do it. And the industry has a right to manufacture cigarettes, even if defective. Proctor called this “the libertarian argument.”

“It is wrong to think about tobacco as a struggle between liberty and longevity; that tips the scales in favor of the industry. People will always choose liberty, as in ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ What people don’t realize is that most smokers dislike the fact they smoke, and wish they could quit. Cigarettes are actually destroyers of freedom.”

There are tobacco industry documents, he noted, in which smoking is compared not to drinking but rather to being an alcoholic.

Myth #5. The tobacco industry is here to stay. Global tobacco use would be declining were it not for China, where 40 percent of the world’s cigarettes are made and smoked. Proctor has a bet with a colleague, though, that China will be among the first to bar the sale of cigarettes, once their financial costs are recognized.

Anyway, sounds like a heavy read and a real unapologetic voice of anti-tobacco advocacy. Can’t wait.

Amazon link to the book.

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6 Responses to Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition

  1. Jack says:

    On myth # 1:

    The notion that smoking is on a downward trend has always sounded like a lie to me. It’s true that more poeple are aware of the dangers of smoking Myth #3 but their addiction overrides their common sense and they continue to smoke even when sick.

    On Myth # 4 :

    I hate to sound like a libertarian but I have to partially agree with this one. Until society makes it illegal to smoke it’s their choice ( initially before the addiction robs them of their will ) however because their choice has a negative impact on me I don’t wan’t ( allow) smoking near me, end of story.

    There should be a myth # 6:

    The tobacco industry does not advertise on TV:
    Bullshit, just about any cable/TV show or movie promote smoking as a “cool” activity hence ” people begin smoking at the age of 12 or 13″ as outlined on myth# 3.

    Keep-up the good work.

  2. Lizard Island says:

    I like this guy Proctor already. Great article Pepe. You fight the good fight.

  3. Jen E says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I am a huge protester against tobacco so I’m excited for this book as well! Once you have read it, will you be posting a review?

  4. Mike says:

    I just heard this guy and when he said that the tobacco industry uses anal gland secreation of a Siberian beaver and cause global warming I just had to laugh. When are all these elites going to get out of people’s life.

    BTW I don’t smoke but it is a choice and in the US we use to have the right to make good or bad choices.

    • Pepe Lepew says:

      If I had a nickle every time some Libertarian told me, “I don’t smoke, but …. ”

      … I’d be too rich to blog.

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