Popular Science Monthly/Volume 25/September 1884/Hygiene For Smokers



THIS article is not intended for school-boys desiring to enjoy their cigarettes out of the sight of their tutor, nor for children who try to play the man by taking up one of his faults. It is addressed to smokers, but does not purpose to increase the number of them. Its design is to indicate what precautions may be taken to diminish as far as possible the inconveniences of smokers' glandular irritation; but it affirms the reality of these inconveniences, and declares it impossible to remove them completely.

The first hygienic principle relative to tobacco is, then, Do not smoke at all; don't smoke at any age. More than one old smoker will agree with me that it would have been good for him if he had never lit a cigar; for he suffers now if he can not smoke a half-dozen of them in the course of the day. The habit of smoking creates a factitious want that is, perhaps, more imperative than real wants, and which is a constant trouble to those who feel it. When I have a pressing engagement after dinner, I cut my meal short so as to have time to smoke a cigar; and there is to me nothing to suggest doubt in the story related by Philibert Audebrand of Father Schoëne, director of Louis Philippe's park of Monceaux, who loved two things—his plants and his pipe. From morning till night he lived in the garden, and from morning till night he carried a short pipe in his mouth, which he would not take out for any one. "It may pass before me," said Louis Philippe to him one day "but to smoke so in the presence of the queen and the princesses!" "Sire," replied Schoëne, "it is stronger than I am. If your majesty is not satisfied with my service, I shall have to present my account; I shall probably die with vexation over the matter, but it will be with my pipe between my teeth."

Do not enroll yourselves, then, beardless readers, in the battalions of Nicotia. Initiation into her mysteries has painful accompaniments, and her fervent worship brings troubles of another character. Tobacco is smoked in cigars, cigarettes, and pipes. Placed in contact with the mouth, the cigar, which can not escape some chewing, colors the saliva and charges it with the toxic principles of the tobacco—elements, principally nicotine, that should be carefully rejected. A person smoking only a simple light cigar may, perhaps, see the end of it without spitting, but, if he consumes any number of them, he must spit frequently. This exercise is less indispensable when a cigar-holder is used, and the adoption of such a mouth-piece is recommended by hygiene as a means of avoiding the direct contact of the mouth with the tobacco, and considerably diminishing the inconveniences of smoking. Cigar-holders are made of amber, shell, glass, bone, cherry, birch, lilac, jasmin, maple, and cane. Holders made from the last wood are the best, because they are generally longer than the others, whereby the smoke may become cooled, and because, being very cheap, they can be frequently renewed. Other inconveniences, involving questions of cleanliness, are avoided by the use of the cigar-holder. Too many hands touch the tobacco while it is being manufactured into a cigar for one to be able to say it has not been soiled, and cases of its having been the vehicle for conveying contagious disease are not unknown.

Havana cigars are the best, but how to get them? The coat does not make the monk, nor does the label make a real Havana. We read in the "Journal d'Hygiène" that cigars are bought at very cheap prices at various places in Europe, and then shipped to Havana, where they are boxed and labeled and sent back to Europe. According to M. Cardon, the matter is arranged more expeditiously at Hamburg and Frankfort, where cabbage-leaf cigars are sold as real Havanas under the government stamp, which they have acquired the right to bear by being sent out to meet vessels coming in from Cuba, whose arrival in the Baltic or in the Channel has been signalized. The cigars go through the custom-house, get the government mark, and are worth ten times as much as they were before their little excursion. It is a good hygienic precaution to choose dry cigars. The nicotine, being volatile, gradually escapes during the drying process, and the smoker consequently absorbs less of it. The absorption is also less when the smoking is done slowly; but, if one smokes fresh cigars fast and without spitting, his mouth and nervous system become so saturated with the narcotic ingredients of the smoke that, according to Professor Johnston, every kind of pipe becomes insipid to him.

Tobacco rolled up in a thin, combustible substance, which is burned with it, forms a cigarette. Many doctors regard this as the most dangerous form in which tobacco can be smoked. Dr. Barre recently invited smokers of cigarettes, in the journal "Le Peuple Français," to observe if they did not, after having smoked ten or a dozen of them, feel a pressure on the left side, with palpitation of the heart. The more we advance in the practice of medicine, he added, and the more we question our fellow-doctors, "the more we are convinced that the abuse of the cigarette is one of the most frequent causes of diseases of the heart." As for myself, I have never observed the troubles noticed by Dr. Barre; but I have remarked others, particularly inflammatory angina and laryngitis. The irritation of the back part of the mouth and respiratory channels probably arises from the habit, common with smokers, of swallowing the smoke. This is a noxious practice, and must be avoided. In some countries cigarettes are rolled in corn or plantain leaves; in France, we roll them in paper. A great many persons think that the mischievous effects of the cigarette are due to this envelope. I owe it to the truth to say that the accusation has not been established. If the use of the cigarette is really more injurious than that of the cigar, it is probably because, in cigarette-smoking, we have to use tobacco that is more moist, and consequently more charged with nicotine. The question respecting the envelope is not yet solved. The makers of cigarette-paper certainly take great care to fill the public with the idea of danger attending the use of paper of bad quality. They all offer the smoker superior papers, of pure fiber. The more refined offer coal-tar paper, to prevent chest-irritation; ferruginous paper, as a guard against anæmia; and even pepsin-paper, to facilitate digestion. It is all smoked, and that is the end of it. Use any paper you please, gentlemen; the important thing for hygiene is, that you do not use too much. The same recommendation is addressed to the ladies—for there are ladies who smoke; the Society of Public Medicine was occupied with them in 1880. MM. Decaisne, Delaunay, Thévenot, Bouley, Brouardel, and Goyard said some very interesting things on the occasion; but. after a brilliant oratorical display, "richer in arguments than in observed facts," the society wisely concluded that "it was not necessary to conclude anything." That is my position on this vexed question of cigarette-paper.

Larouse says that, although it is admitted as a principle that only the cigar is in good taste in the street, the pipe is, in the privacy of home, the relaxation of persons in the highest social classes as well as of the masses. The observation is just. All great smokers use the pipe. The poor smoke a modest clay pipe; the rich a meerschaum set with silver and amber, carved and engraved like a precious stone; poor and rich, consuming much tobacco, burn it in an incombustible bowl with a tube attached; whatever it may be, it is still a pipe, and, if it costs more, it is no better than the cheaper one, but rather the contrary. If all pipes were equally durable, they might be classed, according to their merit, as follows: 1. Soft earthen pipe; 2. Meerschaum; 3. Hard earthen pipe, white or colored; 4. Wooden pipe; 5. Porcelain pipe; 6. Metallic pipe.

The white earthen pipe, porous and permeable to liquids, is put first, because it is a good absorber of nicotine; the metallic pipe is put last, because it allows all the noxious products formed during the combustion of the tobacco to reach the mouth of the smoker. The meerschaum, which immediately follows the clay pipe, deserves its place only on condition that it is not too old. If it is seasoned, it is as bad as a wooden or porcelain pipe. The seasoning, of which poets have sung, may be full of charms for the amateur; to the hygienist, it simply indicates that the pipe has had its day, and is now saturated with tobacco-juice; and that it must be replaced by another one, or be passed through the fire to purify it, as is done in the coffee-houses of Holland. Every old pipe, browned with long use, leaves on the lips and tongue an acrid and strong-smelling liquid which irritates the tissues and corrodes the mucous secretions. When it has reached this condition, the finest meerschaum is no better than the meanest scorch-throat. Independently of the substance, the form of the pipe has an influence on the proportion of noxious ingredients which tobacco-smoke contains, Turkish and Indian pipes, in which tobacco is burned slowly, discharging its smoke through a liquid, arrest a large proportion of the poisonous ingredients. The bowl of the German pipe retains the greater part of the oily products; the Dutch and English clay pipes retain less. The metallic pipes of Thibet, becoming heated, carry to the mouth not only brown liquids saturated with nicotine, but also a smoke hot enough to burn the tongue. The pipe should, then, be long, and, in order that the smoker may become convinced of this, I submit to him these lines by Dr. Buisson, taken from his article on "The Lips," in the "Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales": "It is not without reason that the popular tongue has energetically described by the name brûle-gueule (scorch-throat) the pipe with a short stem. Not only is this stem impregnated with the empyreumatic matter with which old pipes become browned in seasoning, but it is heated to such a degree as to subject the lips to a local elevation of temperature, a kind of chronic burning, which causes a thickening of the epithelial layer in the same manner as the contact with hot bodies increases the epidermic secretion on the hands of subjects exercising certain professions." It should be added that every smoker should have his own pipe, and not use indifferently any one that comes to hand.

Whether we smoke a cigar, a cigarette, or a pipe, two hygienic precepts should not be lost sight of: The first relates to the atmosphere, and may be formulated—it is less injurious to smoke in the open air than in a room, in a large room than in a small one. Be careful, then, smokers, to ventilate liberally and frequently the apartments in which you smoke your tobacco. The second precept is a question of cleanliness. If it is good for every one to attend frequently to the washing of his mouth and teeth, the usefulness of the habit becomes a rigorous obligation to every one who is addicted to the pipe, the cigar, or the cigarette. A wet cloth passed over the gums and teeth in the morning may possibly be enough for persons who do not smoke, but the brush is indispensable for smokers. A simple gargle of aromatized warm water is better to neutralize the odor of tobacco than the best scented pellet.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Journal d'Hygiène.