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Daniel Robinson

Business History Book Prize

2023

Daniel Robinson, Cigarette Nation: Business, Health, and Canadian Smokers, 1930-1975 (McGill Queens University Press, 2022).

Cigarette Nation tells the story of the rise of the cigarette in Canada from a minor novelty to the central product of the Canadian tobacco business. Focused primarily on the middle decades of the twentieth century, Robinson brilliantly reconstructs the collision of profit imperatives, marketing strategies, social factors, and emerging health concerns, all of which produced a highly ambivalent history. While scientists built the case that smoking was harmful, tobacco companies created their own scientific discourse, developed new mild brands, and ramped up marketing to sell the cigarette as a product of taste, relaxation, and sociability. Throughout, Robinson builds his case on deep research in company records, government reports, court cases, newspapers, and other sources. In Robinson’s hands, then, the cigarette becomes much more than an ephemeral consumer product. It opens an historical conversation on business, science, health, gender, state regulation, and everyday life. Clearly written and deeply researched, Cigarette Nation is a brilliant reconstruction of one of the most important stories in recent Canadian business history.