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Book review
Golden holocaust: origins of the cigarette catastrophe and the case for abolition
  1. Virginia Berridge
  1. Correspondence to Virginia Berridge, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, London, UK; virginia.berridge{at}lshtm.ac.uk

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Authored by Robert N Proctor. Published by University of California Press, 2011, hardback, 779 pages, £34.95. ISBN 9780520270169.

Robert Proctor is an American historian and the author of Cancer Wars and The Nazi War on Cancer. In the latter book, published in 1999, he discussed pioneering research in the Third Reich on the connection between smoking and lung cancer and the strong Nazi emphasis on antismoking policies, a precursor of the wider focus on antismoking postwar. Prior to Proctor's work, the Nazi interest in antismoking had been discussed in the UK by historically minded epidemiologists writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 1994.

Proctor's tone in his earlier book was measured. He was at pains to stress at the outset that discussion of Nazi antismoking interests did not imply approval of other Nazi policies. The fact that he was drawing our attention to a ‘good’ Nazi policy did not mean that he approved of their other actions. That approach, a typically historical one, has changed in the intervening years. The tone of this book, and its title, is quite different. This is advocacy history. Proctor is part of the antismoking action with a clear policy agenda promoted through historical research. Cigarette smoking is a ‘Golden Holocaust’ and the book aims to show how the cigarette became an item of mass culture, how its risks were revealed by research, and then hidden by manufacturers. Proctor sets out a political agenda for the future, one where the aim is prohibition and the elimination of the cigarette.

The methodology of the current book differs from the historical norm. Proctor has acted as an expert witness in one of the many US legal cases against the tobacco industry and has used material from the online industry archives released as part of legal settlements and now available …

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