Smoke Damage

Michael Schwalbe’s Smoke Damage isn’t quite the book I expected. Where I thought I’d be reading a fire-and-brimstone anti-smoking tract, what I got instead was a fairly objective examination of smoking as both a social and medical issue in the twentieth and twenty-first-centuries, a snapshot of the tobacco wars as they currently stand. The book consists of a collection of brief first-person accounts of people whose lives have been affected by tobacco in some way: tobacco farmers, doctors, legislators, cancer survivors, and others. Each account is accompanied by a photograph; indeed, the photographs alone (all taken by Schwalbe) make the book worth perusing. Needless to say, Schwalbe comes down against smoking and the tobacco industry throughout the book, but he manages to do so in an even-handed and decidedly non-preachy way.

-Review by Marc Schuster