This is the final chapter of the book De Tabak en Het Rooken; Ernst en Scherts uit de Cultuurgeschiedenis (Tobacco and smoking: earnestness and jest from the Cultural History). The book itself is a translation from a German book by Hermann Pilz that appeared shortly before the 20th century. I didn't manage to get much data on Pilz.
The text on this page is a double translation: first from German to Dutch, then from Dutch to English. In this translation I attempted to keep the spirit of the text intact: the bizarre contrast between the tobacco-loving first few paragraphs, and the middle investigation into the harmful effects of tobacco. Apparently, unlike what we were taught in biology class, people knew way before the 1960s how dangerous smoking was; but few wanted to take the advice to heart.
This translation has numerous stylistic errors in it. Many of those were posed here deliberately: notably the disturbing repetition of certain words and the occasional ununderstandable sentence, several ungrammatical phrases and such. I would enjoy to read the original to see what that's like in this respect.
Further note: my copy is a paperback edition. At the turn of the century, it was apparently normal to print several pages on large pieces of paper, then fold them and put them in the book. Many of the pages in this paperback are still attached to each other by the folds, signifying that whoever owned it, never read it. As I didn't want to cut the folds either, reading and translating was very nasty.
Final note, for those who wonder: I'm a strict anti-smoker.
Why do we smoke? Why do we sniff? Why do we chew tobacco? the tobacco must be good for everything. An oriental prince who wanted a certain answer to these questions, came to the conclusion that tobacco is good for anything. The sick smoke to become healthy, the healthy to keep his health, the sad to get in a better mood, the cheery to augment his cheer, the rich to chase off boredom, the poor to forget his sad fate. For all, tobacco is a welcome solace-bearer in the battle of life. It is certain that tobacco was originally only used as medicine. And in these days, tobacco is still believed to have healing powers.
When the French ambassador in Lisbon gave the first tobacco plants to Queen Catharina de Medici and in his honor the oxygen-free alcaloid of the tobacco was named "nicotin", C10H14N2, there were immediately a number of French doctors who wanted to perform miraculous healing with the tobacco, and the English and German doctors would soon follow them.
The organic ingredients of tobacco are: nicotine, volatile oils, proteine, fat, organic acids, sugar, starch, pictine and woodfibres. The leaf of tobacco has a sharp aromatic scent and a bitter sharp taste. The green tobacco leaves do not smell of nicotine. The cattle can digest large amounts of green tobacco leaves without problems. The smell of nicotine comes at the fermentation of the dry leaf: it appears that the nicotine in unfermented tobaccco is present in organic acids. Because of the process of fermentation, that stops air from coming in (because the wet leaves are pressed closely to each other) , the amount of nicotine becomes so little, and it may eventually disappear. On the whole, the amount of nicotine varies from 1.5 to 9% in the green tobacco leaves, in the prepared tobacco from 0 to 8%. Ordinary tobacco goes from 7 to 8%, the finest Havana tobacco under 2%.
Nicotine is part of the alcaloid elements, which play such a major part in poison plants. Because she is oxygen-free, she is similar to the poison of conium. Except for the tobacco, there are no known plants that contain nicotine. On the effect of nicotine on the human body, Dr R. Kissling writes:
According to the physiological effect nicotine is the deadliest poison of all alcaloids. The deadly dosis is with dogs 1/2 to 2 drops, with rabbits 1/4 drop, and small birds drop down when the beaks of these little animals comes in the proximity of a glass tube dipped in nicotine. With humans, no deadly dose has been properly established yet. However, severe poison symptoms like fainting and cramps are found at 0.003 grams. The nicotine poison initially has effect on the cerebrum, in very small doses revitalising, in larger doses paralysing. It's this revitalising that makes smoking tobacco so enjoyable for people with mental work.
The working of tobacco and tobacco smoking is probably based on the volatile oils which is only present in 0.03% of the tobacco. During smoking, the heavy volatile distilation-products are separated in the charred remains by the smoke sucked into the cigar. This causes the tobacco in pipe or cigar to drench itself during smoking with nicotine, pyridine, collidine and tar. This diminishes the inflammability of the smoking material, and consequently the smoke from this part will contain even more sharp and burning substances. As with the cigar, while smoking, it is much easier for the air to enter, than with the pipe, it is understandable that tobacco, which can be used with ease in a cigar by the smoker, will taste sharp and have an intoxicating effect. On the whole, pipe smoking is considered to be less disadvantegeous than cigar smoking. This rule of thumb is however not reliable from all viewpoints, as it will be affected by the quality, the how and how often. As a rule, one can assume that neither cigars nor pipes should be smoked up to the end as the last part with the tobacco is full of nicotine. Using a mouthpiece or little pipe can diminish the disadvantages so far, in that the cigar doesn't come in direct contact with the mouth and saliva-wetted nicotine and sharp substances directly into the mouth. Smoking is the most disadvantageous before breakfast, on an empty stomach, and when the smoke is swallowed; the smoke then comes in contact with the bronchies. Smoking, combines with drinking alcohol, coffee or tea, is very stimulating for the nerves. With symptoms of chronic tobacco poisoning, immediate stopping is needed.
Hygienically there is not much against moderately smoking. The effect of a glass of beer, or a cup of coffee or tea, is much clearer than the effect of a cigar; though she is much more intensive, which is shown by the amount of people who smoke all day long. The minor stimulation of smoking can have an alleviating effect on those with ostipation. The nicotine and the volatile contents (pyridine, collidine, picolline, lutidine), along with hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulphur, carbonoxide, water gas, which are in tobacco smoke, will not show their disadvantageous effects until immoderateness causes the borders of tolerance of the organism to be crossed: then appetite decreases and various inconveniences and illnesses show. The strange thing is the fast pulse that smokers in relation to non-smokers - of the same constitution - possess. An average pulse is 81 with smokers, and 71 with non-smokers. Of the mucous membranes, in the first place the ones in the oral cavity and in the larynx which are being stimulated by the smoke. Also the digestive organs suffer. Through dulling of the taste buds the appetite decreases: stomach pains and other unwellnesses follow; also insomnia.
A medical specialist in Vienna battled for months against insomnia, without finding the cause; finally he stopped smoking in the evenings and with that the ailment disappeared. Also tumors on the lips, tongue and throat in smokers are attributed to smoking, though such isn't proven with certainty. In the English magazine "Young Man", several doctors who are in favour of moderacy, are in favour of smoking enjoyment. Dr. Norman Kerr states that he would be moving against science and truth if he claimed that smoking tobacco is necessarily disadvantegeous.The tobacco possesses other virtues, like desinfecting properties. "When I would have to go to a hospital, I would always smoke. The tobacco smoke destroys both cholera microbes and those that cause pneumonia." The fight of the colic through tobacco smoke, particularly in animals, is a well-known home remedy. The smoke works stimulating on the intestine and enhances the peristalsis. That is the name of the worm-like movement of the muscle fibers in the intestine, causing the fecal matter to be slowly pushed away. The tobacco smoke is made with a regular pipe and is blown via an oil-lubricated rubber hose into the rectum. As soon as the pear-shaped disappearance of the same is filled with smoke, this soom re-appears by itself and a short time after is followed by the relief of smoke and feces. Colic, along with rebellious cases of ostipation with horses, cattle and sheep, are being quickly cured by tobacco smoke.
To combat the adverse effects of nicotine, numerous health pipes have been fabricated and sold. A new hygienic cigar, which completely combats all the harmful effects of tobacco, must have been fabricated by Professor Gerold from Halle using a special procedure. Professor Gerold had suffered unwellness due to smoking too many cigars and that gave him the idea to research if in the process of the tobacco ingredients could be used that remove all the damaging effects of nicotine. Soon he found means in tannin, but from the tests it turned out that it couldn't be used in that way. After countless testing, Gerold found the answer in origanum vulgare or oregano, a substance of which the juice is excellent to be used with tannin as means to filter tobacco. After the nicotine content of a tobacco species had been precise [sic], the starch of the extra ingredients measured carefully, the right temperature had been reached, etc, the testing lead to success. The tobaccoes treated this way must be unharmful, as they stop every effect of nicotine, yet keep the beautiful colour, the fine flavour and aroma. Under the name "Lehet", Paul Oltosi & Söhne in Vienna marketed a tobacco blend, that diminishes the disadvantageous effects of nicotine.
Very notable hygienic uses for smokers are given by military doctor Schüler: "Especially bad is the smoking at night and before breakfast on an empty stomach, of which experience has taught that smoking then causes disturbance in the digestive system: smoking is also dissuaded from every physical exercise: gymnastics, dancing, mountaineering, cycling. The smoker has to make sure that he blows out all the smoke, he may never let it out through the nose, or swallow it: an abuse that is often seen in France and Russia. One must especially note that the cigar or pipe is not held with the teeth, but with the hand. Finally it is disadvantageous for the health to smoke the cigar until the end. Smoking pipe is on the whole less damaging than smoking cigars or cigarettes. A "health pipe" must be long and poreus, and, for frequent cleaning, must be made of different parts. The most disadvantageous is smoking cigarettes. Apart from the tobacco which is often mixed with opium causing threatening dangers, the smoke from the burning of cigarette paper is irritating for the eyes, dehydrates the mouth and causes throat infection. A simple and sufficient protection against the dangers of tobacco is systematic oral hygiene. Water, pure drinking water, with salt dissolved in it, nl a gram of salt on 1/4 litres of water, is a remedy which the average smoker must use immediately after rising, before every meal and before going to bed, and with which he must wash his mouth about six times per day. On the washing before bed must be put special emphasis, because when this doesn't happen properly, the influence of the tobacco will last through the night.
Dr med. Andreas Wilson, a friend of tobacco smoking, is also against cigarettes. "They are especially harmful," he said, "because one simply smokes too much in this form." One attributes the harmful effect of smoking cigarettes to the paper. Wrongly. The cigarette paper gives about 8% of the ash, which usually contains iron, chalk, copper, lead, ultramarin, silicium, catlinite etc, but in minute amounts. Even when a smoker smokes 25 cigarettes a day, not a small amount, he has only smoked 0,8 grams of paper. The ash from these 25 cigarettes wheighs 0,6927 grams and contains 0,000128 grams of copper- and lead-oxide. If these harmful products would all get into the lungs, the smoker would have inhaled only 1 gram of the same in 25 years. These numbers will be enough to calm the frightful.
One sees it only comes to moderacy. Dr Max Breitung-Koburg warns the smokers for cigarettes only for this reason, and based on his experience as doctor. With the influenza of the last years he has got to know and fear the cigarette. The danger lies herein, he says, that the cigarette, on itself an insignificant thing, leads to abuse. Cigarette smokers, both ladies and gentlemen, usually smoke all day; one recognizes them, when the vision is sharpened first, immediately from a peculiar yellow colour of the fingernails. In the Russian world, the cigarette has a dominion and particularly the Russian cigarette has the most powerful effect. This is, according to Dr Breitung's experience, all the more dangerous when combined with alcohol abuse. One will notice in cigarette smokers, almost none excepted, a faint, fast and irregular beating of the heart, insomnia, lack of appetite, disturbed digestion, along with chronic infection of the mucous membrane of the nose. These illnesses are not so frequent with other smokers, even those who smoke heavy Havana-cigars. How often is the answer on the question "Do you smoke?" "Yes, but only cigarettes". It is however not about the principal battle "against the cigarette", but about the battle against 20, 30 or more cigarettes per day.
To dodge the alleged disadvantageous effects of the cigarette paper, one has recently marketed "liquorice-cigarettes". The paper used for this "Pectoral" cigarette is made of liquorice; by its composition it halts the damaging effects of nicotine and when smoking dryness of the mouth is prevented. It has allegedly a pleasant effect on the lungs, while it has an exceptionally good taste. The paper is brown and does indeed taste sweet. This "advantage" is however shoved away by the unusual thickness of the paper. The claim of the inventor "that the damaging effects of nicotine are halted" must of course be proven first; at any rate a stick of liquorice is adviced to non-smokers.
A bitter enemy of all the tobacco pleasure is the Italian doctor and philosopher Mantagazza. He is such an enemy of smoking, that he considers it the task of women to keep the men from the creation of smoking. The Italian scholar does not want that the definition of Linnaeus can be applied to us: "Man is an unfeathered smoking biped"...., And to make the fairer sex forever wary of smoking, Mantagazza reminds us that the first English women who emigrated to America were sold for tobacco. In the years 1619 and 1620, 150 girls arrived in America, who were all given in marriage for 120 pounds of tobacco each to settlers. A second load of 60 other pretty girls were bought for 150 pounds of tobacco each. The ladies, who are at their strongest when they discover weaknesses in men, are here noted in secret that the wise doctor Mantegazza once was surprised on the pavement of a dining room in Rimini while he was comfortably smoking a cigar. A stranger approached him with the modest question: "Excuse me sir! Aren't you doctor Mantegazza! And when the addressed replied affirmatively, he had to hear that he couldn't possibly be doctor Mantegazza, because he was smoking and in his books....
Yes, books and life are two different things, and he who has a lot to disprove of becomes buyer*. The cigar has certainly tasted Mantegazza well, after his lunch in the paradisian landscape. But why is he then so vile about smokers? Because it is easier to preach the word than to follow it, and Mantegazza is a classical example for them who don't believe the irresistibility of that sweet "Lady Nicotine". His tragi-comical adventure reminds us of an anecdote that the famous Skoda gave in his lecture. At the chapter "Prescriptions for the diet" he explicitly told his audience that one should only give food with due care to patients who are recovering from typhus. "I, too, have had typhus once," the lecturer said with his peculiar smile. "The crisis was over; I lay exhausted and helpless in my bed. The doctor had just left my room and given my next of kin strict prescriptions on the soup and the winedrops I was allowed. Then I suddenly smelled cooked hare. With disregard to the seriousness of my condition I sneaked outside, took the hare off the fire and ate it, before anyone came, to the bone. The firm meal did not hinder me."
In his book "The nervous century" Mantegazza gives tobacco a opprobious part. "Used to conceal or ease many forms of nervousness, she sooner makes it increase, and cause other problems." Following the research of Rouillard, Mantegazza claims that the non-smokers on the universities are the best pupils. Of the 59 major illnesses of the nervous system (partial paralysis, paraplexia, disturbed movement, etc) Tanussier found 41 cases with smokers, of whom 30 were heavy smokers. Piasecki, doctor in the tobacco factory in Havre, found an exceptionally large mortality rate with the children of the employees in the factory, nl 223 of 376; of these, 55 died of brain disease, meningitis and congestion. Dr Gas, former doctor in the tobacco factory in Tomeins, found that nervous suffering, convulsion, apoplexy, muscle shuddering*, epilepsia were very normal diseases with the tobacco workers. Dr Bourdui even connected lunacy to use of tobacco. In France, in the year 1840, only 16,018,495 kg of tobacco was consumed and then there were 13,385 loons. In 1880 the annual consumption was 33,556,371 kg and the number of loons had increased to 47,463 persons. In the 5 departements of France where there is being smoked the most (Nord, Pas de Calais, Mewethe et Moselle, Bouches du Rhone, Alpes Maritimes) the average use of tobacco is 1762 kg and the amount of loons 769 in each departement. In the 5 departements with the least smoking (Aveyron, Lozere, Dordogne, Haute Loire, Charente) the average use is 408 gr per inhabitant and there are only 288 loons in each departement. That it can't be but a coincidence, connecting the increase of lunacy to the increase of tobacco use, would not need explanation. The use of absinth, morphine etc plays a much larger part.
That tobacco use at an early age is disadvantageous, no-one would contest, not even he who remembers what pleasure he had from his first cigar. The smoking by children must be combatted. Some time ago we read a sketch on the life of the natives in Laos, in which among others the astounding announcement was, that young mothers in this tribe would quiet their young children, by giving them, the way we give them a dot*, a lit cigar. Also from other countries we heard a confirmation of this story, from which we learn that there "young smokers" are a different subject. Smoking and smoking are two different things, so we learn from a journal of a travel over the land of Darien in Central America. There, women and children put the lit end of a cigar in the mouth and claim that this is the only way one can enjoy the true flavour of tobacco. Probably learning this art of smoking is not always painless.*
These are eccentricities of tobacco enjoyment. They should not be taken into consideration when judging the advantages and disadvantages. This much is certain: a wise, moderate use of tobacco enhances the digestion, is cheering and is not disadvantageous for health. Inmoderateness in the use makes the tobacco a dangerous poison. And when we investigate the old legends of tobacco, we find that in the Orient in antiquity, a strengthening effect on body and soul was attributed to tobacco.
In the "good old days", as it was called, "when time was still young, and everybody had as much as he could wish for, there lived a young man in Mecca, who was so good and virtuous as young men should be in that day and age, and as they should be in the present. He possessed many treasures, but his largest treasure was his beautiful, virtuous wife. She unfortunately grew ill and died. Without success he used all the strength of his soul to overcome his agony. He attempted to entertain himself by travelling; he rented the four prettiest virgins in Mecca, but nothing could make him forget the loss of his precious jewel. Heartache made him pine away. Then he decided to seek counsel from a pious man, who lived as hermit in the desert. He received him as a father would receive his son, and spoke, after he heard the history of his woe: "My son, visit the grave of your wife; thou shalst find a plant there; pick the leaves, put them in a pipe, set fire to them and smoke them. Then you will find comfort. The smoke will give you advice through which you'll learn wisdom and which will clear your spirit!" Indeed, this crop possessed these miraculous powers and soon it was tasted by others who wished to forget their misery.
We have seen what a meaning the tobacco has acquired. It may rightly be considered a prime factor in the new Culture History and everyone who read this article at ease, will not abstain herself from this honour, and soon fill pipe, set alight, even chew and spit. This author too will exchange his pen for a vagrant regalia.
* "He who has a lot to disprove of becomes buyer": "Buyer" in this sentence is translated from koper, which can also mean copper. I unfortunately did not understand the phrase at all, so I couldn't give a clearer translation.
* "muscle shuddering": A literate translation of "spiersidderen". It is such an outdated term that I could not find a proper translation of it on the Net, not even a more modern Dutch word.
* "the way we give them a dot" refers to the common practice of letting noisy babies suck on a piece of cloth. Much like a pacifier, except these cloths were often drenched in brandy. Hmmmm...
* "Probably learning this art of smoking is not always painless": very free translation that conveys the meaning of the phrase, more or less, but not the near-incomprehensible style.