"The Book Big Tobacco Doesn't Want You to Read"

"With "Golden Holocaust," historian Robert Proctor deconstructs an industry that still kills more than 400,000 Americans a year."

"Amid the impressive collection of cactuses outside his modern two-story abode on the Stanford University campus, science historian Robert Proctor points to a few sad-looking tobacco plants that he's growing just for the hell of it. 'They're not thriving here,' he tells me offhandedly.

They obviously know their enemy. 'I like to write about the history of the unseen and the untold,' he explains. 'Of controversy, but also of evil. Of abuse of science. Of science used for horrific purposes.' Proctor's wide-ranging scholarly interests include Charles Darwin, the politics of gemstones, and Nazi doctors. But his magnum opus is Golden Holocaust, a devastating new compendium of the tobacco industry's sins that lays out in head-shaking detail how a handful of companies painstakingly designed, produced, and mass-marketed the most lethal product on the planet.

Knowing that Proctor's book was coming, RJ Reynolds subpoenaed his unfinished manuscript in 2009. Though his lawyers beat back the attempt, it cost him $50,000, not to mention days of depositions.

'They didn't want this book to come out,' says Louis Kyriakoudes, an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and one of just three historians, including Proctor, who have testified against the tobacco industry in court. (More than 70 of their historian colleagues have quietly collected millions testifying and consulting on the industry's behalf.) 'I suspect that if they were successful subpoenaing the work in progress, they could try to discredit it and diminish its impact,' says Kyriakoudes."

Michael Mechanic reports for Mother Jones in the May/June 2012 issue.

Source: Mother Jones, 05/21/2012