DYING TO QUIT by Janet Brigham


Why We Smoke and How We Stop
Email this review


A useful overview of the science and sociology surrounding the smoking debate. Former science journalist Brigham, now a research psychologist, observes that where smoking had been declining in the US since the surgeon general’s 1963 report on smoking and cancer, the number of smokers has now begun to climb; Hollywood, she says, glamorizes smoking (65 percent of male leads in recent films are depicted as smokers), cigars are in, and teenagers are lighting up in record numbers. At the same time, the number of smokers worldwide is growing (as is, of course, the world’s population); it now stands at more than a billion, a cigarette manufacturer’s dream come true. American smokers are likelier, she writes, to live in the industrial northeast than in California or Hawaii, where the rates of smoking are lowest; they are likelier as well to be uneducated, and the less educated they are, the less probable it is that they will quit smoking. Brigham’s text becomes occasionally tangled when she departs from mere numerical observations--but only because the science surrounding smoking is itself confused and confusing. Brigham notes that nicotine and other active ingredients in tobacco affect different smokers in different ways, that some smokers can puff away for seven or eight decades without becoming ill, while others are felled by coronary disease in early middle age, and that nicotine offers powerful therapeutic value in combating such maladies as Alzheimer’s disease while posing undeniable health risks in other areas. Her text is straightforward, if sometimes marred by a too anecdotal approach, and she makes a good case--as if one were needed--for why those who smoke should stop and those who do not smoke should not start. Good reading for high-school health classes and for anti-smoking activists.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-309-06409-0
Page count: 308pp
Publisher: Joseph Henry Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998