England, 1604 - Massive tax rise on tobacco in a bid to discourage smoking
Canada, 1676 - Smoking is banned in the street
United States, 1899 - Anti-smoking campaigners call for the eradication of tobacco
Germany, 1944 - Smoking banned on public transport to protect workers from secondhand smoke
In this revealing and meticulously researched account of an untold story, Christopher Snowdon traces the fortunes of those who have tried to stamp out tobacco through the ages. Velvet Glove, Iron Fist takes the reader on a journey from 15th century Cuba to 21st century California, via Revolutionary France, Victorian Britain, Prohibition Era America and Nazi Germany.
Along the way, the author finds uncanny parallels between today's anti-smoking activists and those of the past. Today, as the same tactics begin to be used against those who enjoy alcohol, chocolate, fast food, gambling and perfume, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist provides a timely reminder that once politicians start regulating private behaviour, they find it very hard to quit.
"In this solidly researched, interesting and only occasionally strident book, Christopher Snowdon, an independent researcher, documents the cigarette's journey from patriotic necessity to pariah status. There had always been those who found smoking "loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs," as James I put it in 1604. Some despots, in Hindustan and Persia, went further, slitting smokers' lips or pouring molten lead down their throats. American prohibitionists claimed that smoking led to moral decay; Nazis that it was a decadent Jewish habit. But few non-bigots thought that their personal distaste warranted limiting the freedom of others."
--The Economist, June 11 2009
"In his fascinating history of anti-smoking, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist, Christopher Snowdon... shows how the campaign against passive smoking took off in the 1970s, long before the first studies that claimed to show its ill-effects. An early campaigner's statement that `we were just waiting for science to tell us what we already knew' accurately reveals the subordinate role of science in the anti-tobacco cause.
Snowdon quotes a recent editorial in the New Scientist, which suggests that the anti-smoking campaign may have reached some sort of limit. Commenting on the promotion of the concept of `third-hand smoke' - the notion that toxic residues in the form of particulates can be transmitted from a victim of passive smoking to a third party (and hence justifying bans on smoking in the home as well as in the workplace) - campaigners were accused of `distorting the facts to make their case'. The editorial concluded that `using bad science can never be justified, even in the pursuit of a noble cause'. Yet, as Snowdon observes, the `real message' that emerges from his study is that `government health agencies could no longer be trusted to provide accurate medical advice and were now wilfully misleading the public in an effort to manipulate behaviour'. This is the real damage done to public health by its embrace of the cynical moralism of the anti-smoking crusaders."
-- Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, Spiked Review of Books, October 30 2009
"Velvet Glove, Iron Fist is a fast-paced critique of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century public health focus on lifestyle behaviours. The book centres on smoking, which Snowdon, in common with anti-smoking activists, sees as the blueprint for increased regulation of individual health behaviour for the common good.
... Velvet Fist, Iron Glove is an enjoyable read which surely proves that smoking has not lost its ability to provoke debate and reaction in over four centuries. It remains to be seen whether the pendulum will continue to swing towards prohibition, or whether smokers will enjoy a renaissance"
— Rosemary Elliot, Social History of Medicine (2011)