Puff Piece - John Safran - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Two things you need to know about me: I’m a (mostly) reformed smoker through the use of vapes, and I have a huge long-time crush on John Safran. If there were to be a book-of-my-dreams published in 2021, Puff Piece would be it.

Cigarette company Philip Morris, “the Goliath of a dying industry”, is up to brand new shenanigans (emphasis on brand) and re-launching as a “wellness company”. Safran heard this news, got a look at their new “alternative” product, and smelled a rat. Penguin Random House was kind enough to send me this book, the product of his personal investigation, for review.

Puff Piece is “a probing look into Big Tobacco and the vaping industry”, sparked by Phillip Morris launching the HeatStick (it’s tobacco rolled in paper with a filter at one end, but it’s NOT a cigarette, they’re at pains to tell us) around the same time as the introduction of the Euro ban on menthol cigarettes in 2020.

Safran tackles the ethical ramifications, big and small, of multinational companies manipulating language to shimmy through legislative loopholes. It’s funny, insightful, informative, ingenious – everything we’ve come to expect from Safran.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating lifting-of-the-veil, and my crush on Safran is as strong as ever.