Cigarettes in Africa

Author: Charles Ambler

On October 21, 2021 here on Points Sarah Brady Siff drew attention to an important new book by the eminent historian of medicine, Keith Wailoo, Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette. In this book, Wailoo documents in lucid prose the cynical campaign by tobacco companies to market cigarette products in minority communities at a time when growing awareness of the health repercussions of tobacco use had led to sharp declines in smoking among white middle class Americans. 

That domestic corporate strategy only represented a piece, and ultimately a relatively small piece, of a global effort to expand markets and find new sources of revenue outside the United States and Western Europe—in Asia, Latin America and Africa.  Yet as my colleagues, Gernot Klantschnig and Neil Carrier, and I noted in the introduction to our collection on Drugs in Africa (2014) there is relatively little scholarship on tobacco production, manufacturing, promotion and consumption in Africa—not withstanding big tobacco’s supposed big push into the continent.

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