I'm currently reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (which is excellent) and I'm up to the chapters on prevention, specifically the prevention of lung cancer through reduction of cigarette smoking. I had no idea cigarette smoking was so uncommon in the US as recently as 1870...but we caught up quickly.
In 1870, the per capita consumption in America was less than one cigarette per year. A mere thirty years later, Americans were consuming 3.5 billion cigarettes and 6 billion cigars every year. By 1953, the average annual consumption of cigarettes had reached thirty-five hundred per person. On average, an adult American smoked ten cigarettes every day, an average Englishman twelve, and a Scotsman nearly twenty.
For some context on that 3500/yr per person number (and the unbelievable 7000/yr Scottish rate), the current rate in the US is around 1000/yr and the highest current rate in the world is in Serbia at almost 2900/yr per person.
The latest from the Made By Hand video series is about Martinez Cigars on West 29th St in NYC. The cigars they sell are hand-rolled right in the shop.
Taking in the scene at Cannes:
Defying France's strict new antismoking laws, Sean Penn, right, president of the jury at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, lighted a cigarette at a news conference yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported. After a couple of puffs in defiance of rules that banned smoking in enclosed spaces since January, he put the cigarette aside and returned to answering reporters' questions. But a jury member, the Iranian writer and director Marjane Satrapi, prompting laughter, then asked if anyone minded if she smoked "for medical reasons." She lighted a cigarette; Mr. Penn and the French actress Jeanne Balibar joined her.
Philip Morris is releasing some new products for smokers, especially those in emerging markets, e.g. markets with more smokers and less regulation than the US or Europe.
The Heatbar - a hand-held electronic smoking device that emits 90% less smoke than a regular cigarette, hence less second hand smoke. Only $118 for 1 year of service (2 cartons of cigarettes included)
Update: Altria has indeed spun off Philip Morris International, freeing PMI to pursue their fortune in the wider world. (thx, mau)
Update: Here's a more extensive story from the WSJ, the likely source of the above summary.