Smoke Em If You Got Em

The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration

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  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Published:
    November 15, 2018
  • ISBN-10:
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  • Product Dimensions:
    9 × 6 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    23 oz
Hardcover $8.79
Book: Cover Type


The American military-industrial complex and accompanying culture are most often associated with massive weapons procurement programs and advanced technologies. However, one aspect of the complex is not a weapon or even a machine, but one of the world’s most highly engineered consumer products: the manufactured cigarette. Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em describes the origins of the often comfortable, yet increasingly controversial relationship among the military, the cigarette industry, and tobaccoland politicians during the twentieth century.

Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em is also a study in modern American political economy.  Bureaucrats, soldiers, lobbyists, government executives, legislators, litigators, or anti-smoking activists all struggled over far-reaching policy issues involving the cigarette. The soldier-cigarette relationship established by the Army in World War I and broken apart in the mid-1980s underpinned one of the most prolific social, cultural, economic, and healthcare-related developments in the twentieth century: the rise and proliferation of the American manufactured cigarette smoker and the powerful cigarette enterprise supporting them.

Using the manufactured cigarette as a vehicle to explore political economy and interactions between the military and American society, Joel R. Bius helps the reader understand this important, yet overlooked aspect of twentieth-century America. 

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“From Major General Payton March’s introduction of the ration in 1918 (countermanding an order from Secretary of War Newton Baker), to our beloved image of the smoking GI, along to the end of cigarette rations in 1973, the introduction of the Army’s Tobacco Cessation Program in 1986, and the final end of military cigarette subsidies in 2001, this book is an interesting new angle on the American Century.” —Manhattan Book Review
“The book is an excellent examination of the social, economic, and political process by which cigarette smoking became so much a part of the Army’s culture for some 50 years and then how this same social, economic, and political process was used to virtually end cigarette smoking by soldiers. This is a well-researched and well-written book that examines a social norm that shaped the Army for a great part of the 20th century. If you are interested in the social history of the Army, this book is well worth reading.” —The Journal of America's Military Past
“An intriguing read... Read it if you got it.” —Valdosta Daily Times
Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of a masculine rite of passage.” The Daily News
“A fascinating study of the rise and fall of the cigarette in American society and its influence on the nation's political economy during much the 20th century. Joel Bius clearly establishes the role of the U.S. Army in helping to create a nation of cigarette smokers during the two world wars, as well as its later role near the end of the Cold War in bringing to an end big tobacco's reign over the GI.” —Peter R. Mansoor, author of The GI Offensive in Europe; General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History, Ohio State University
Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em unpacks one of war's most popular images - that of the cigarette-smoking G.I. Dr. Bius' work makes clear the complex interplay between the U.S. military and the society it served in the rise and fall in the acceptability and popularity of military smoking. Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em is War and Society history at its best.” —Andrew Wiest, author of The Boys of '67 and University Distinguished Professor, University of Southern Mississippi
“Bius offers a detailed, well written, and illuminating discussion of the Army's expanding role in the lives of soldiers from 1914 to 1986, especially with the move to an all-volunteer force, which found the Army attending to the needs of long-term enlistees and their families…. Tobacco use in the military is frequently regarded as inevitable and natural. Joel Bius has taken an important step in clarifying the forces that forged and sustained this relationship in the twentieth century.” —Michigan War Studies Review
Smoke ‘ Em If You Got ‘Em will appeal to readers interested in both Army history and the cultural influence of the American tobacco industry. Bius’s insights and research are top-notch. While it is an academic study, it will hold the attention of a novice historian. This is a quality, engaging read packed with information on the tobacco industry and the U.S. army throughout the twentieth century.” —On Point: The Journal of Army History
“Bius should be commended for producing this well-written and -researched work of political and cultural history. Additional credit is due to Matt Simmons for an exceptionally striking and clever cover design.” —Naval War College Review.