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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.

1492
Columbus gets a gift

1850s

1900s
Buck Duke builds a trust

1902
Teddy Roosevelt hunts a Buck

1913
New cigarettes in the ashtray

1950s

1957
Congressman Blatnick gets filtered out

1959
Doctors make a deal

1964
The scientist and the lawyer

1964
A cowboy is born

1969
Give an inch, gain a decade

1970
Dr. Auerbach’s beagles are turned on him

1978
The sounds of silence

1979
Carter sacrifices his Secretary

1980
Lois Lane lights up

1980s
You’ve gone the wrong way, baby!

1982
Excise profits

1984
The Waxman cometh

1987
A Texas-size payoff

1988
Black lungs

1492 Columbus gets a gift

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.

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