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Smoking, dying, and kicking butts

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The smoking life. Ilene Barth. Columbus, Mississippi, USA: Genesis Press, 1997, ISBN 1-885-47822-4, pp 268, US$29.95.

Why anyone would buy a book like this is beyond me. Perhaps it’s like that fad book 101 Uses for a dead cat, given as a present to cat lovers for shock value. Or perhaps it’s the ideal present for a “die-hard” smoker. The book is a celebration of smoking, a difficult task, I would have thought, in a climate of growing avoidance of passive smoking and increasing revelations of tobacco industry deceits. It is introduced well by the opening foreword: “To the young: don’t even think of smoking. To the hooked: enjoy it while you can.”

The history of tobacco in this book documents how the English settlers in the New World took to tobacco with a vengeance and is full of sentimental anecdotes of tobacco’s importance and how early tobacco traders were rewarded by European nobility. Anti-smoking campaigners are acknowledged as a historical fact, but overwhelmed by the more frequent mentions of famous and not-so-famous smokers and their nostalgic memories of their smoking. The chapter entitled “The wisdom of smokers on smoking and other subjects” sums up the general idea. Photographs …

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