Cigarettes and Soviets

Smoking in the USSR

by Tricia Starks

Enriched by color reproductions of tobacco advertisements, packs, and anti-smoking propaganda, Cigarettes and Soviets provides a comprehensive study of the Soviet tobacco habit. Tricia Starks examines how the Soviets maintained the first mass smoking society in the world while simultaneously fighting it. The book is at once a study of Soviet tobacco deeply enmeshed in its social, political, and cultural context and an exploration of the global experience of the tobacco epidemic.

Starks examines the Soviet antipathy to tobacco yet capitulation to market; the development of innovative cessation techniques and clinics and the late entry into global anti-tobacco work; the seeming lack of cultural stimuli alongside massive use; and the expansion of smoking without the conventional prompts of capitalist markets. She tells the story of Philip Morris's "Mission to Moscow" campaign for the Soviet market, the triumph of the quintessential capitalist product—the cigarette—in a communist system, and the successes and failures of the world's first national antismoking campaign. The interplay of male habits and health against largely female tobacco producers and medical professionals adds a gendered dimension.

Smoking developed, continued, and grew in the Soviet Union without mass production, intensive advertising, seductive industrial design, or product ubiquity. The Soviets were early to condemn tobacco, and yet, by the end of the twentieth century Russians smoked more heavily than most most other nations in the world. Cigarettes and Soviets challenges interpretations of how tobacco use rose in the past and what leads to mass use today.

Tricia Starks is Director of the Humanities Center and Professor of History at the University of Arkansas. She is the author of Body Soviet and Smoking under the Tsars. Follow her on Twitter @tricia_starks.

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