The Parrot and the Igloo Notes

Old Judge, or Tobacco Killed a Cat

195   Cigarette chiefs called a panic meeting: Among other portents: “For the first time in twenty years,” reported the Times on December 10, “annual cigarette sales will decline.”

Tobacco Stocks Hit By Cancer Reports; Some Drop to Lows for Year After Medical Warnings, but Industry Spokesman Scoffs”; New York Times, December 10, 1953.

Stanford historian Robert Proctor (in Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, University of California Press 2012, 222) calls the result “an outgassing of panic on Wall Street, with tobacco stocks falling more sharply than at any time since the Great Depression.”

Proctor continues, “The cigarette trade was in danger of coming undone.” There was additional consumer-sector anxiety; a trend being monitored by G.S. Callendar and Gilbert Plass. Temperatures seemed oddly, unnaturally warm.

“Everybody was talking about the weather, and its effect on sales had many a businessman worried,” Time reported that season. “Over much of the U.S. last week hung a mass of unseasonably warm air that was making people forget that winter—and Christmas—are almost at hand.” This was causing what the magazine described as buying apathy.

Time, “Change in the Weather,” November 30, 1953. The magazine asked, as it would have many more occasions to over the next seven decades, “Are winters generally getting warmer? The U.S. Weather Bureau has found that they are. In the last 50 years, average winter temperatures in the U.S. have risen about two degrees.”


195   at the Plaza Hotel: Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America, Basic Books 2009. Chapter Six, “Constructing Controversy,” 165.

Naomi Oreskes, Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt, Bloomsbury, 2010. Chapter One, “Doubt Is Our Product,” 15.

Oreskes observes that per 1953 social graces “unaccompanied ladies were not permitted in its famous Oak Room bar.”


195   In the Journal of the American Medical Association: Ochsner A, DeBakey ME, DeCamp PT et al. Bronchogenic carcinoma, its frequency diagnosis and early treatment. JAMA. 1952;148:681–697.


195   just about worst case: Time Magazine, “Beyond Any Doubt” November 30, 1953.

Evarts Graham was then America’s foremost thoracic surgeon, and left little debate room: “This is no longer merely a possibility. Our experiments have proved it beyond any doubt.”

As Peter Pringle notes in Cornered: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice (Macmillan, 2014), this was epochal: “For the first time doctors generally began to take the link between smoking and lung cancer seriously.”


195   Reader’s Digest story that kicked off the year: Running the previous December; there had been 12 months of unprecedentedly bad tobacco news.

Roy Norr, “Cancer by the Carton,” Reader’s Digest, December 1952. Condensed from Christian Herald, October 1952.

The University of Alabama hosts a comprehensive Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. ( You can read a copy of the Digest piece that kicked off tobacco’s denial era.
Accessed 7-20-22.


195   the most-read magazine in America: Brandt, Cigarette Century. 171.


196   “fateful meeting”: Brandt, Cigarette Century. Epilogue, 497. The Plaza meeting has a strong effect on writers. Naomi Oreskes, in her seminal study on climate deniers and general misleaders, Merchants of Doubt, calls it “a fateful day.” She calls the path taken that day “a fateful decision.” (p. 14, 15.)

In his Pulitzer-winning The Emperor of All Maladies, oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee discusses “the epic perversity.” Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, Scribner 2010. Part Four, “Prevention Is the Cure,” 257.


195      the public relations firm: In her study The Voice of Business, Karen S. Miller ranks Hill and Knowlton “the most important public relations agency in history.” That’s the flap copy. The book proper includes pre-history: “the most important public relations firm ever.” Karen Miller, The Voice of Business: Hill and Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations, University of North Carolina Press 1999. Introduction, 1.


196      billing went to Hill & Knowlton: Scott Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 1994. The publicists knew just what they were getting into. “This is,” one aide wrote John Hill, “the most challenging problem our organization has ever faced—and perhaps the most challenging problem that ever faced a great industry.”

Cutlip, The Unseen Power: Public Relations: A History, Erlbaum Associates, 1994. Chapter 16, “John Hill’s Two Major Battles: Steel and Tobacco,” 484.


196      The physicians Evarts Graham and Alton Ochsner: Graham himself was so large a problem that after Cancer Research ran the 1953 mouse-painting paper (co-written with Ernst L. Wynder), the American Medical Association ceased to allow cigarette ads in JAMA. “Publication [at] the end of 1953 was enough to persuade the American Medical Association to stop accepting cigarette ads in its main scientific journal, JAMA.”

An additional surprise is that until 1953 the Journal of the American Medical Association ran cigarette ads. Richard Kluger, Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris, Knopf 1996. Chapter Six, “The Filter Tip and Other Placebos,” 162.

Like Emperor of All Maladies, Kluger’s history received the Pulitzer Prize. A cabinet full of the entertaining, the infuriating, the puzzling. Like:


The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) remarked editorially [in 1948] that “more can be said in behalf of smoking as a form of escape from tension than against it. … [T]here does not seem to be any preponderance of evidence that would indicate the abolition of the use of tobacco as a substance contrary to the public health.”


Kluger’s chapter names provide the tenor of the times. Chapter Five, “Shall We Just Have A Cigarette On It?” 132.


196      “it is a crusade for research: Hill and Knowlton Inc., “Tobacco Institute President Discusses Industry Position,” June 21, 1963. Bates No. 3990588623-3990588624.


196      “It is believed that the word”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century. Chapter Six, “Constructing Controversy,” 169.


196      “ploy was unrivaled in its genius”: Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies. Part Four, “Prevention is the Cure,” 253.


196      “a long range of efforts”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century. Chapter Six, “Constructing Controversy,” 167.


196      “Ideal,” runs the memo: Tobacco Institute, “T.I. ETS Consultant Program Project Status; Project: Recruitment of Additional Scientific Consultants,” July 9, 1993. Bates No. TIOK0007695.


197      the same years that Roger Revelle stepped forward: Many researchers have drawn the connection; the idea is nicely expressed in David Michaels’ 2020 The Triumph of Doubt (Oxford University Press; and a dispiritingly inevitable follow-up to his 2008 Doubt Is Their Product). “Climate-breakdown denial began with and is closely linked to Big Tobacco, which in its decades-long fight to deny the link between smoking and lung cancer established both the playbook and the founding organizations for science and public relations against the public interest.”

Michaels, The Triumph of Doubt. Chapter 11, “The Climate Denial Machine,” 185. And after the last few years—with their vaccine mistrust, the booster shot protests—the title becomes difficult to argue with.


197      “finding out that eating candy”: Editorial, “Reexamining the Ozone,” The New York Times, November 25, 1979.


197      Allan Brandt calls the past hundred years: In, for example, Allan Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America, Basic Books 2009.


197      Second, portable matches: Proctor, Golden Holocaust. Chapter Two, “Matches and Mechanization.”

“Paper matchbooks were invented by Joshua Pusey in America in 1889, and by 1896 the Diamond Match Company (which bought the rights to his invention) was making more than 150,000 matchbooks a day. ‘Close cover before striking’ was added to the front for safety and presumably legal reasons, and this eventually became one of the most widely printed phrases in the English language.”


197      “the little box of matches”: Henry James, “The Private Life,” The Atlantic, April, 1892. Collected in Henry James, The Private Life, James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co 1893.


198      “I answer tobacco”: Kluger, Ashes to Ashes. Chapter Three, “It Takes the Hair Right Off Your Bean,” 63.

The frontispiece of Cassandra Tate’s Cigarette Wars displays a sort of Nephew Sam figure: a World War I-era poster, solider pointing at viewer, above the words, “I need SMOKES more than anything else.” Cassandra Tate, Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of “The Little White Slaver”, Oxford University Press 2000, “Poster distributed by the Our Boys In France Tobacco Fund, 1918,” iii.


198      “Soldiers returned home committed”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century. Chapter Two, “Tobacco As Much As Bullets,” 54.


198      Thomas Edison and Henry Ford both: Proctor, Golden Holocaust, Chapter 14, 211. “Edison was already known for his policy of employing ‘no person who smokes cigarettes.’”

Brandt, The Cigarette Century. Chapter Two, “Tobacco As Much As Bullets,” 47. Ford “vowed not to hire smokers.”

Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver, Henry Ford 1916. 25 Edison: “The injurious agent in cigarettes comes principally from the burning paper wrapper. The substance thereby formed is called ‘acrolein.’ It has a violent action on the nerve centers [. . . I employ no person who smokes cigarettes].”


198      Ford produced a book: Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver, Henry Ford 1916. Ford’s dedication is “To my friend, the American boy.”


198      “25 billion to 255 billion”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 96. War to war, 1916 to 1943.

Brandt points out nineteen-teeners were “astounded” by the 25 billion number.


198      “dreamsticks”: Cassandra Tate, Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of “The Little White Slaver”, Oxford University Press 2000, Chapter Three, “The Little White Slaver Goes to War,” 68–69. West Point had earlier banned cigarettes; the Navy tried and waved the white flag. “Young sailors . . . insisted life at sea would be impossible without cigarettes.” Tate quotes a sailor: “I tell you those dreamsticks help you to pass away many a dreary and home-sick hour.”

In Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration (Naval Institute Press 2018), Joel Bius analyzes dreamstick components: “To soldiers, cigarettes were instant morale and welfare. They were relaxation and serenity in a clean, sanitary, disposable stick—‘dream sticks’ …” Chapter Three, “General March’s Ration,” 54.


198      “Camels have a refreshing way”: Vanity Fair, September 1934, Advertisement, 34.


199      Amelia Earhart and Lucky Strikes: William Grimes, “The Next to Last Whiff Of Smoke and Mirrors,” The New York Times, April 20, 1997.

Smithsonian Institution, Marilyn E. Jackler Memorial Collection of Tobacco Advertisements AC1224.

Accessed 7-21-22.

And like visiting Goodwill or the Housing Works Thrift Shop—a pleasant musty rainy-day half-hour sifting through fashions of the past.


199      “The Importance of Candy as Food”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 74. The Chicago commissioner was Dr. Herman Bundesen.

A name—and position—that brings to mind someone portly; and then you look at his Wikipedia, and he’s unexpectedly, even delicately handsome.


199      “The authorities are overwhelming”: Devra Davis, The Secret History of the War on Cancers, Basic Books 2007, Chapter Six, “Making Goods Out of Bads,” 143. Davis’ description—as a tart betokening of things to come—is worth quoting: “In response, Lucky Strike provided a scientific-sounding riposte that was unsupported by any real science.”


199      “Eat a chocolate”: Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 93.


199      “The doctor is a scientist, a diplomat”: The New York Times, “In Old Ads, Doctors and Babies Say ‘Smoke,’” October 6, 2008.

Accessed 7-21-22.

The ads commemorate a world whose basic assumptions have withered. Even Santa lights up. (No indication whether the date is the 24th or 26th.)


199      More Doctors Smoke Camels: Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, 251. Brandt, Cigarette Century, 105. It’s even Brandt’s chapter title.


199      “a courtship and Harvard poem”: John Updike, “Apologies to Harvard,” Tossing and Turning, Knopf 1977.

It’s the first time-and-place detail the speaker reaches for. Opening line. “We took the world as given. Cigarettes / Were twenty-several cents a pack.”


199      “Five decades later”: Adam Begley, Updike, HarperCollins 2014. Chapter XII, “Endpoint,” 484. “He died eight weeks after the cancer was diagnosed . . . less than two months shy of his seventy-seventh birthday.”


199      “nearly one for every waking hour”: Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, 251.


199      “the worry, overpressure”: The New York Times, “A Whiff from the Pipe: The Uses and Abuses of the Tobacco Plant,” March 10, 1889. Quoted in Jordan Goodman, Tobacco In History: The Cultures of Dependence, Routledge 1993. Chapter Five, “The Little White Slaver,” 120.

The Times notes one bonus: “Smokers have long claimed for tobacco the property of a disinfectant, and the jurymen who, being summoned to one of our jails to ‘sit upon’ the corpse of a prisoner who died of smallpox, refused to perform their office unless provided beforehand with pipes and tobacco, had more in their favor than was commonly supposed.” A University of Pisa professor had shown “that tobacco does possess that property, inasmuch as it retards the development of some kinds of bacteria and absolutely prevents the development of others.”


199      “One thing is certain”: More positive about tobacco in general than cigarettes in particular.

“The decadence of Spain began when the Spaniards adopted cigarettes,” the Times reported in 1884. “And if this pernicious practice obtains among adult Americans the ruin of the Republic is close at hand.”

The New York Times, “Cigarettes,” January 29, 1884.

Quoted in Cassandra Tate, Cigarette Wars, 12.

Tate is very pertinent and funny on the cultural association of decadence and female smoking. “Almost as soon as cigarettes began to be noticed at all in the United States, they were linked to women and wickedness,” Tate writes.


The author of an 1877 anti-tobacco tract reported that he had personally seen young girls smoking in “dancing saloons,” in a “striking exhibition of depravity.” . . . As the New York Times observed in 1879, “[T]he practice of cigarette-smoking among ladies seems to be generally regarded as the usual accompaniment of, or prelude to, immorality.” In one of the earliest extant photographs of anyone with a cigarette, taken around 1850, Lola Montez — the Irish dancer and self-styled adventuress — was shown holding one between languid fingers as she cast a seductive look over her shoulder. Lillie Langtry, the Victorian actress (and mistress of Britain’s future King Edward VII), scandalized respectable society by posing with a cigarette in her mouth. As seen in these and other examples, cigarette smoking was at least a token of, if not a direct conduit to, the demimonde.


Tate, Cigarette Wars, 23–24. Fascinating, too, that data about the earliest extant photo.


199      “It is a very good therapy”: Clarence Cook Little, “Press Conference of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee,” University Club, New York, June 15, 1954, Bates No. 11310464-500. Quoted in Brandt, Cigarette Century. Chapter Six, “Constructing Controversy,” 183.


200      “better be something pretty powerful”: Thomas Whiteside, “A Reporter At Large: A Cloud of Smoke,” The New Yorker, November 30, 1963.


200      “Or there would be more wife-beating”: Wife-beating remained weirdly present on the Philip Morris corporate radar. Here is the company chief interviewed by The New York Times Magazine three-and-a-half decades later. “You also get some other beneficial things, such as stress relief. Nobody knows what you’d turn to if you didn’t smoke. Maybe you’d beat your wife,” said CEO Geoffrey Bible. “Who knows what the hell you’d do?”

Jeffrey Goldberg, “Big Tobacco’s Endgame,” The New York Times Magazine, June 21, 1998.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky