Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration
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Published:October 15, 2018

The American military-industrial complex and accompanying culture are most often associated with massive weapons procurement programs and advanced technologies. Images of supersonic bombers, strategic missiles, armor-plated tanks, nuclear submarines, and complex space systems clog our imagination. 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. After fostering the relationship between soldier and cigarette for more than five decades, the Department of Defense and fiscally minded legislators faced formidable political, cultural, economic, and internal challenges as they fought to unhinge the soldier-cigarette bond they had forged.

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.

From 1918 to 1986, the military established a powerful subculture of cigarette-smoking soldiers. The relationship was so rooted that, after the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report warned Americans that cigarettes were hazardous to health, a further 22 years were needed to advance military smoking cessation as official policy, and an additional 16 years to sever government subsidies providing soldiers low-cost cigarettes. The role of wars and the military in establishing and entrenching the American cigarette-smoking culture has often gone unrecognized. 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 20th century America. 



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Product Details
  • Subject: Military History
  • Hardcover : 328 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (October 15, 2018)
  • ISBN-10: 168247335X
  • ISBN-13: 9781682473351
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 23.36 oz
  • War College Podcast Interview
  • History With Mark Bielski Interview
  • Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of a masculine rite of passage.” —The Daily News
  • "An intriguing read... Read it if you got it." —Valdosta Daily Times
  • "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
  • This path-breaking book depicts an overlooked dimension of the military-industrial-political complex: not the armaments industry but tobacco. With two world wars as turning points, Joel Bius integrates war, political economy, public health and the environment in innovative and fascinating ways, tracing an American addiction that was ultimately brought under control. —Richard Tucker, Adjunct Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, and author of The Military and the Environment: A Reference Handbook
  • 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

Joel R. Bius is an assistant professor of national security studies at the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College. He received his PhD in U.S. history from The Dale Center for the Study of War and Society at The University of Southern Mississippi.


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