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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Chapter VI. — The Social Mischief Inflicted by Smokers

Chapter VI.

The Social Mischief Inflicted by Smokers.

42.—Not only do the devotees of tobacco violate the laws of health in their own persons, and inflict grievous bodily and mental evils on themselves, but they are not more careful of the comfort and happiness of others than of their own. Hence we find them continually setting at defiance the laws of good taste and politeness, and rendering themselves a nuisance to others. The exhalations from the body of a habitual smoker are most disgusting to a person whose senses are pure and healthy. Smokers can have little idea of the tax they impose on the forbearance of others, by carrying about with them an odour and an atmosphere so offensive. The unfeeling selfishness of an otherwise good husband and father who will persist in thus presuming on the forbearance of a pure and virtuous wife and lovely children, is a marvel which only the intense slavery of the pipe can explain. According to Dr. Edmunds, delicate women are often kept in a state of ill health by the poisoned air they are compelled to breathe, and infants in the cradle have actually been put into convulsions by the nicotine with which the father's unnatural and selfish indulgence has charged the air of the apartment.

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43.—The smoker is unconscious of this. So absorbing is the propensity, that, though discouraged at home, the craving for the indulgence triumphs over the domestic affections, and hence the wife endures a practice which fills her house with vile odours lest the man of her choice should, if not thus tolerated, desert his home, and fall into evil associations that might prove his ruin. How hard is it for smoking husbands and fathers to awake to a sense of their responsibilites, and rise to a height of virtuous self-denial adequate in this matter!

44.—The laws of hospitality are seriously infringed by the practice. Many a man who in other respects would be welcome to homes of purity and loveliness and intellectual culture, is voted a nuisance and kept at arm's length, because it is understood that "whoever invites him invites his pipe." In arranging for ministerial and other conferences, the purest and happiest homes are often closed against the smoker; many families consenting to receive a stranger only on the condition that he shall not be a votary of the pipe. A smoking minister travelling in America once asked for accommodation for the night at a strange house. The mistress of the house refused his request. He remonstrated, reminding her that she might be refusing an angel. The conclusive reply was, that "angels do not smell of tobacco."

45.—Smokers often become a burden to their families by the disease and consequent helplessness that they bring upon themselves. Would that our boys and young men could be induced to think of the consequences, before the depraving practice is begun. A truly manly spirit would lead them not only to avoid annoying others while in health, but to use all possible means to preserve that health; so that instead of becoming needlessly a charge upon others, they may be strong to minister to their welfare and happiness. What must be the reflection of a young man when rendered helpless by self-induced disease, if he has a vestige of true manliness left ?

46.—The votaries of tobacco are usually conspicuously selfish in other ways. In railway travelling they render themselves a perpetual nuisance. Not content with the compartments devoted to their use, they in many cases frequent others, not liking the odour of stale fumes. If remonstrated with, they too often reply with abuse; giving thus an additional proof of the depraving selfishness the practice engenders. Some smokers may think this rather hard upon them, and may disclaim all intention to thrust the offensive practice upon others. But it is impossible to avoid it in a greater or less degree. A man tells you he never smokes but at night, in the seclusion of his own home. But you meet him in the morning and you find him redolent of his idol. All are not equally inconsiderate of others, but page 25 no possible care will prevent the smoker from becoming more or less a nuisance. The gratification is essentially lowering in its nature, derived as it is from repeated abuse of nerve. To the pure and healthy mind, the very idea of such a source of pleasure is disgusting. Its enjoyment by men of culture and character only proves the paralysing effect of evil habit. We do not say that the man who indulges is therefore not good, and conscientious, and intelligent, but we maintain that whatever be his virtues, he is living below the privileges of his manhood, marring the beauty and integrity of his character, lessening his own capacity for true enjoyment, and exerting by his example an evil influence, the amount of which can only be measured by the extent to which his good qualities render him worthy of imitation. He is not as Christ-like as he might be.

47.—Let any young man resolve that by God's help he will be as good, as pure, as virtuous, as useful, and as polite as it is possible for him to be, and by this standard let him test all the customs to which he is invited to conform; and he must, if he is honest, come to the conclusion that any indulgence in tobacco would be hostile to his grand purpose in life. Let those advanced Christians who wish their influence to be wholly on the Lord's side, make the same comparison, and they must come to the same conclusion. It is only because men live below their privileges and tolerate that which their better nature condemns, that smoking is possible among Christians.

48.—Another of the collateral evils is the injurious effect of the poison on the persons employed in its manufacture. The following statement made in a recent lecture by Dr. Drysdale, Senior Physician to the Metropolitan Free Hospital, ought to make every smoker resolve that rather than encourage a trade that involves so much suffering and waste of life to producers as well as consumers, he will abandon the practice for ever. No person of right feeling could be content to enjoy any luxury at such a cost of suffering to his fellows:—"Dr. Kostral, physician to the Royal factory of tobacco at Iglau, (Ann, d'Hygiène, pub. 1871,) brought before the Medical Society at Vienna in 1871, some statistics in relation to the workers in that government tobacco factory. It seems that there are 1942 of these workers, of ages from thirteen to fifty-six years. They are only taken into the factory if likely to live there for twenty years. The workshops are well arranged and ventilated; but during their ten hours of work, the operatives are exposed to an atmosphere charged with the dust of tobacco and the vapour of nicotine. This is found to be especially noxious to young workers recently entering, or to those convalescent from sickness. Thus the majority of deaths among the children and work-girls in the first month is attributable to narcotic poisoning. page 26 Of a hundred boys from twelve to sixteen, recently entering the works, seventy-two fell sick in the first six months. Their sickness lasted from two to twenty-eight days, and consisted chiefly in congestion of the brain, different nervous affections, pains in the region of the heart, palpitation, pallor, inflammation of the stomach, intestines, and lining membranes of the eyelids, with fever, lassitude, cold sweats, want of appetite and sleeplessness. Some kinds of tobacco, very rich in nicotine, are found very hurtful to the workers in the Iglau factory. Ulcers on the limbs favour such poisonings: and old workers in the factory have a yellowish hue and white gums, with the color of tongue and flabbiness of that organ which Erlenmeyer describes as peculiar to smokers. The work-girls have frequent perturbations in their menstrual functions, and are frequently affected with chlorosis (green sickness). Among the mothers there is often noticed inflammation of the breasts, and the milk has a marked odour of tobacco. Abortions are common among these women. Of 506 births which took place in three years, Dr. Kostral found that 11 children were born dead, and 206 of them died afterwards. Of these, 101 died of disease of the brain, with convulsions; 110 died in the first three months of life; 160 during the first six months; and 181 within the first year. It was a notable fact that the majority of these deaths among infants occurred from two to four months old, at the time when their mothers recommenced work, and gave their children milk impregnated with nicotine."

49.—The man must be strangely deficient in human sympathy, who can continue to enjoy tobacco in any of its forms, after reading such a recital of suffering and waste of life, entailed upon youths and maidens, mothers and infants born and unborn, in order to provide him with his unnatural luxury. It reminds one of the burning words of Cowper:—

"I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me while I sleep
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earned.
No! dear as freedom is, and in my heart's
Just estimation prized above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him."

50.—True politeness and kind consideration for the comfort and happiness of others, are among the most beautiful features in a young man's character. Like a beam of sunlight, the youth distinguished by these qualities, radiant and joyous himself, spreads comfort and happiness wherever he goes. His very presence is a blessing. Smokers little dream how much of pure joy they sacrifice themselves, and how many opportunities they throw away for making others happy by placing their affections on the enslaving weed.