The Tobacco Wars


1850s

Philip Morris, a London tobacconist, caters to English smokers who picked up smoking after trying French and Turkish cigarettes during the Crimean War.

1900s Buck Duke builds a trust

Buck Duke Pioneer botanist Luther Burbank captures the growing distress among scientists when he remarks that smoking is “nothing more or less than a slow, but sure, form of lingering suicide.”

American Tobacco Co. founder Buck Duke fields a small army of lawyers, lobbyists, and others who appeal to the pocketbooks of legislators being asked to crack downon cigarettes. Three members of the key Senate Finance Committee own tobacco stock, including its chairman, Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, who holds stockworth more than $1 million.

Four years later, when Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act, Sen. Aldrich and other federal lawmakers do Buck Duke’s bidding. Although no other ingested product is subject to heavier processing, more additives, or as many known or suspected toxins, tobacco is egregiously excluded from regulation. The industry will argue forever after that tobacco is neither a food nor a drug and thus properly exempted.