The following timeline was drawn from the substance of Richard Kluger’s monumental and gracefully written new history of the tobacco industry, Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris. Kluger brilliantly illuminates the corporate strategies that allowed Philip Morris, which held only .5 percent of the U.S. cigarette market in 1925, to emerge as the titan of the industry by hyping Marlboro Country, sabotaging critics with disinformation campaigns, buying political and philanthropic allies, and masterminding legislative strategies to limit its liability.
Columbus gets a gift
Buck Duke builds a trust
Teddy Roosevelt hunts a Buck
New cigarettes in the ashtray
Congressman Blatnick gets filtered out
Doctors make a deal
The scientist and the lawyer
A cowboy is born
Give an inch, gain a decade
Dr. Auerbach’s beagles are turned on him
The sounds of silence
Carter sacrifices his Secretary
Lois Lane lights up
You’ve gone the wrong way, baby!
The Waxman cometh
A Texas-size payoff
Within a week of his landfall, Christopher Columbus notices the natives’ fondness for chewing the aromatic dried leaves or inhaling their smoke through a Y-shaped pipe called the “toboca” or “tobaga.” In short order, his sailors are sharing the local custom. Foreshadowing both the delight and danger attributable to the plant, Columbus scolds his men for sinking to the level of the savages, only to discover, as he reportedly said, “it was not within their power to refrain from indulging in the habit.” Tobacco spreads throughout the globe, eventually recognized along with coffee, chocolate, and cane sugar as one of the treasures of the New World.