THE SMOKE RING: Tobacco, Money, and Multinational Politics by Peter Taylor

THE SMOKE RING: Tobacco, Money, and Multinational Politics

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Taylor, a BBC reporter who has been covering the medical repercussions of smoking for nearly ten years, pulls together a lot of gloomy homework demonstrating the industry's control of public policy here and in his own country. His thesis--unfortunately, a most convincing one--is that governments are just about as addicted to cigarette revenues, and the industry's employment boost, as consumers are to the product itself. Thus the tobacco giants have been able not only to discourage media attacks on their wares but to induce the Wilson and Thatcher governments and the Carter administration--as shown in blow-by-blow chronologies--to squelch the anti-smoking initiatives of overzealous health authorities (and, and in some, US and UK cases, to serve up the offender's head on a platter). Bans on TV advertising have resulted in an explosion of other promotional efforts--including brand-name cigarette sponsorship of televised sports events (e.g., the Virginia Slims Tournament) and cultural uplift (the Imperial Group's John Player subsidiary ""has financed six productions in six years"" at the Glyndebourne Festival). In this country, Jesse Helms & Co. continue to muster solid support for tobacco-growing subsidies from a surprisingly diverse Congressional coalition, often including Midwestern liberals in need of a backscratch for their own farm constituencies. The Third World ramifications of the issue are appallingly spelled out by a happy, industry-subsidized tobacco farmer in a pretty corner of Brazil increasingly deforested by the cutting of trees for curing-barn firewood: ""We need people to smoke more so we can make more money."" Taylor tends to write in a TV-reporter's bursts and his American editors might advantageously have paid more attention to detail (like the directly contradictory US and UK parliamentary meanings of ""table""). He has little patience, too, for the very real freedom-of-choice dilemmas posed by the smoker's fight to use a perfectly legitimate product at his or her own discretion (treated purely as an industry ploy). But what matters here is the documentation of cowardice and co-opting, and it's frequently stunning.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1984
Publisher: Pantheon