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Canadian tobacco war
  1. Tobacco and Alcohol Strategies
  2. Department of Health and Family Services
  3. GPO Box 9848
  4. Canberra, ACT 2601
  5. Australia.

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    Smoke and mirrors: the Canadian tobacco war. Rob Cunningham. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: IDRC Books, 1996. ISBN 0-88936-755-8, pp. 376, C$25.

    I didn’t expect to find Clive Turner in this book, but there he was, starring on page 278. Turner, long-time spokesman for the British tobacco industry, was the first tobacco industry person I ever met. I found him a curiosity: completely calm, very rational, and utterly at ease with himself.

    Turner was representing the industry in London in the mid-1980s, when passive smoking had become a particularly important issue. Although it fundamentally re-defined smoking as a “public” health issue rather than just a private one, public health advocates certainly took no pleasure from the mounting evidence that one person’s smoking could damage someone else (particularly an infant)—it was simply the latest indication that, whatever we knew about tobacco use, the truth was going to turn out to be worse.

    It was enlightening, therefore, to learn from Cunningham’s account of Turner’s remarks at the 1994 tabexpo conference in Vienna, that what annoyed Turner was not passive smoking or its implications for his industry. What concerned him were the “self-righteous anti-smoking lobbyists” who have “a sort of missionary glint in the eye”. Turner went on to inform his audience that “anytime the words ‘passive smoking’ are said, I think they have an orgasm. I really do. They get all hot and flush and quite excited by it all.” I have been unable to identify to whom, among the sedate and unfrenzied health advocates I knew, Turner might have been referring.

    This is an important book, not just for the wealth of anecdotes and inside information. The book is an astounding achievement, given that it was completed in 1996, after the release of the Brown and Williamson documents and the Liggett Group settlement, but before the release of documents in relation to the legal action against the industry taken by US state attorneys …

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