Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 10



When we consider the almost universal use of tobacco, especially in the form of smoking, among our male population, it is not to be wondered at that this powerful poison has come to be regarded as an innocent and almost necessary vegetable production, not to be used as food exactly, but greatly allied to it as an article of daily consumption. Few stop to reason about its properties or effects; they remember, perhaps, how sick they were made by the first chew or smoke, but this having long passed, believe that as their systems have become accustomed, apparently, to the poison, it cannot be doing them any real injury. When we reflect that tobacco contains from one to nearly seven per cent, of nicotine--one of the most powerful vegetable poisons known--a few drops of which are sufficient to destroy life, it is not difficult to perceive that this faith in the innocence begotten of use must be fallacious. We have met with instances where the poisonous effects of tobacco were manifest after every smoke, even where the attempt to accustom the system to its use had been persevered in for many years; and yet the men never realized what was the matter with them, until they had, under medical advice, ceased to use the drug.

Before the discovery of anęsthetics, tobacco was used as a remedy to produce relaxation in cases of strangulated hernia; and although very cautiously administered in the form of tea, or smoke per rectum, proved fatal in many instances. As little as twelve grains in six ounces of water having thus acted; and from half a drachm to two drachms in a number of instances. When men chew as high as a pound and a quarter of strong navy tobacco a week, or three packages of fine-cut in a day, it must certainly tell upon them sooner or later; or even in much less quantity.

If men used tobacco in moderation, there would be much less objection to it, if it was not so intimately


This is recognized by the trade, in the fact that we see many tobacco stores as the entrance to drinking saloons. Ninety-three per cent. of the men who have been admitted to the Franklin Reformatory Home used tobacco, and eighty per cent. of them chewed it. There may be possibly as high as ninety-three per cent. of male adults who smoke, but eighty per cent. of chewers is undoubtedly a large proportion as compared with those in the same ranks of society who do not drink.

Although the poisonous symptoms of tobacco are, in a great degree, the same in different persons at the inception of the habit, the effects vary materially in after years according to the quantity and variety used, the form employed and the habits and temperament of the user. One man will chew a paper a week, another four, many use one a day, and a few from one and a half to three a day, besides smoking. Occasionally, but very rarely, we find a man who limits himself to one cigar a day, a number allow themselves but three, but of later years even these are moderate compared with those who use eight, ten or more.

There are many men who, for years, preserve a robust, hale appearance under both tobacco and whisky, who are, notwithstanding their apparent health, steadily laying the foundation of diseased heart, or


or nervous system from the former, or an organic fatal disease of the liver or kidneys from the latter.

Healthy-looking men are often rejected by examiners of life insurance companies because of irregular and intermittent action of the heart from tobacco; and equally robust subjects are forced to abandon the habit because of tremors, vertigo or a peculiar form of dyspepsia. We have known men who died from the use of tobacco, and others who met a like fate from whisky, who were never fully in the state denominated drunk. Men may earn a hobnail liver and dropsy by the constant, steady use of alcoholic drink taken systematically, so as always to keep within the limits of intoxication; or they may, in the same way, get a diabetes or Bright's disease.

Abundant testimony in regard to the effects of tobacco in creating an appetite for strong drink has been given by the inmates of the Franklin Home. In a few exceptional cases the use of tobacco does not appear to create any sense of thirst; and this is specially the case with the smokers who do not spit when smoking. Some men seem to be free from any alcoholic craving when using tobacco, and say that when they commence to drink they give up the drug for the time being. These are exceptional cases, for excess in drinking generally leads to an excess in the use of tobacco, often to double the amount ordinarily employed. We have often been told by moderate drinkers, that they frequently


and they have confessed that they were only saved from a habit of drinking to excess by the fact that they had no innate fondness for alcoholic stimulation. Unfortunately, there is a large and increasing class of men who, finding that water does not, but that alcohol does, relieve the dryness of throat and diseased thirst resulting from tobacco, are led, little by little, into the habit of using whisky to excess. Such men, after, it may be, a long abstinence, are not unfrequently led back into their old habits by an attack of nervousness, resulting from a temporary excessive use of tobacco, and a feeling that all that is wanting to relieve this is a glass of whisky, which being taken, at once determines a debauch of long or short duration, according to the habits and character of the party. Many a so-called periodical drinker fixes the return of his period by an act of this kind, and with such cases it is all-important to their permanent reformation, that they should cease entirely and forever from the use of tobacco. We have, in a few instances, prevailed upon men to do this, but in a large majority of cases, where they have admitted the connection between the two habits, in their own person, or volunteered to tell how much tobacco had acted in forming and keeping up their appetite for whisky, they have failed in being able to sum up sufficient resolution to abandon the use of the drug, saying that they felt the importance of the step, and would be glad to be able to give it up, but that the habit was


All that we have been able to accomplish in such cases has been to check the excessive use. We have repeatedly assured men, after a careful examination of their peculiar cases, that they would certainly drink again unless they gave up their tobacco, and have seen this opinion verified, because they took no heed to the warning. We have also been gratified in a few instances by hearing a man say that he felt confident that he could never have accomplished his reformation as he had done, if he had not taken the advice given him about abandoning his tobacco. In contrast with the men of weak purpose, we have to admire one who had resolution enough to break off the three habits of opium-eating, whisky-drinking and tobacco-chewing--no trifling matter--when the first was of ten and the last of more than thirty years' duration.

We have been repeatedly asked which was the most injurious, smoking or chewing, and have replied, that everything depended upon the amount of nicotine absorbed in the process, and the loss to the system in the saliva spit out. Men have died from the direct effect of excessive smoking, and quite recently a death in a child was reported from the result of blowing soap-bubbles with an old wooden pipe. We have known a little boy to vomit from drawing air a few times through the empty meerschaum pipe of his German teacher. The smoking of two pipes as the first essay, very nearly caused the death of a young man, whose case was reported by Dr. Marshall Hall.

The least poisonous tobaccos are those of Syria and Turkey, but the cigarettes made of them in the East and imported into this country are said to be impregnated with opium. Virginia tobacco, for the pipe or chewing, contains a large percentage of nicotine, and the former is often impregnated with foreign matters, recognizable by the choking effect of the smoke when inhaled, or by the removal of the epithelium (outer skin) of the tongue at the point under the end of the pipe-stem.

If we fail in our efforts to reform the tobacco habit, the next best thing to do, is to show men what the nature and capabilities of the poison are, and endeavor to persuade them to use the milder varieties and in a moderate quantity.


is the passion for imitating and acquiring the evil habits of men, under an impression that it hastens their approach to manhood. Weak, frail, delicate boys, with inherited tendencies to disease, who should, by all means, never use tobacco, or anything injurious, are often as obstinately bent upon learning to smoke, in spite of medical advice, as those in whom a moderate use would be far less objectionable. A recent observer, in examining into the cases of thirty-eight boys who had formed the habit of using tobacco, found that twenty-seven of them had also a fondness for alcoholic stimulants. A large proportion of the Franklin Home inmates attribute their habit of drinking to the effects of company; many commenced in the army, and many were induced to drink at first by invitation. If smoking was a solitary habit, it would be less likely to lead to drinking; but the same companionship, and habits of treating prevail, as in the saloon, and the step from the estaminet to the bar-room under invitation, is an easy one, where the diseased thirst, so often induced by tobacco, favors the movement to treat.

We have no prejudice against tobacco, other than what would naturally arise in the mind from a careful examination of the effects of the poison in hundreds of cases. We have seen large, hale-looking men forced in time to abandon, although very reluctantly, the use of tobacco in every form; and the most bitter enemy we have ever met to the vile weed as he termed it, was a physician, who had been forced to give up chewing on account of the state of his heart, after years of indulgence. We have seen many such instances, and, in one case, the abandonment of the habit entirely cured a dyspepsia of twenty-eight years' standing.

T.S. Arthur

Sorry, no summary available yet.