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No Smoking

Michael Moretti
Posted: March 20, 2006
King Edward VII, Oscar Wilde, Groucho Marx, Al Capone, Miles Davis, JFK, Sigmund Freud, Clint Eastwood, Pablo Picasso, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, and a welder in Louisiana, to name a few, have indulged in the leaf and got caught on camera doing so. Luc Sante explores this in his book No Smoking (Assouline, 2005).

Sifting through the archives of a time when everyone seemed to light up, Sante arranges the images into a pictorial history. From movie stills to historical photos to antismoking ads, the collection displays the way tobacco was consumed and presented worldwide. This is coupled with the author's claims in the introduction that the product came to define class lines and identity by brand and type. In a sort of report on tobacco folklore, the cigar smoker became a fat cat, truckers favored Chesterfield cigarettes, Bohemians and intellectuals opted for Camels and Lucky Strikes, and farmers went for Raleighs. These topics are looked at briefly in the opening, and then the reader is invited to kick back and observe the author's observations in a sometimes beautiful, sometimes interesting and sometimes perplexing array of images.

The work, which packs 250 photographs and illustrations in its 400 pages, covers a broad expanse of time and features everyone from movie stars to nuns enjoying a smoke. Retailing for $49.95, the book also comes cleverly presented in a slipcase fashioned to mimic a box of cigarettes. Flip open the top, spark your lamplight and draw in a distant and not so distant visual history through a cloud of smoke.

Photo by Mary Galligan

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