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In November 2020, I spoke with Alan Blum, MD, scholar, collector, curator, exhibitor, activist, and director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society (CSTS). He has been creating tobacco-themed exhibitions since the 1980s—in brick-and-mortar as well as digital settings—based on a prodigious collection of tobacco-related artifacts. Before joining CSTS, as founder of Doctors Ought to Care, a national organization of concerned and outspoken physicians, Blum satirized and protested at tobacco industry–sponsored events. In addition to being an avid museumgoer, he closely follows the tobacco industry’s sponsorship of museums and exhibitions. This article contains excerpts from our interview, with Blum addressing the dynamism of tobacco marketing, the irony of CSTS exhibitions, his recollections of past exhibitions, and what he regards as the complicity of other industries and professions. Be advised that the exhibitions Blum curates and the views he expresses “may be hazardous to people’s preconceptions.”


Lee, D., & (with Alan Blum). (2021). A Flea’s Tumescence: Alan Blum, MD, on Exhibitions, Activism, Irony, and Collaboration. American Behavioral Scientist, Copyright © 2021, SAGE Publications. DOI:



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