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Snufftaking - Smoking

( Originally Published 1851 )



Some time since, during the argument of a heavy cause in the Court of Chancery, a friend having in vain endeavored to draw the attention of the witty Sir G R from his brief, as a last resource presented him with a pinch of snuff. Sir G

however, on declining the offer, observed with an air of solemnity, " Had the Creator intended my nose for a dust-hole, he would not have turned it upside down."

As snuff and tobacco form a considerable item in the expenditure of the working classes, it may be proper to mention, that the highest medical authorities are of opinion that the use of them is prejudicial to health. The following is the opinion of the celebrated Dr. Cullen on the subject:—" Tobacco is a well-known drug, of a narcotic quality, which it discovers in all persons, even in a small quantity, when first applied to them. I have known u small quantity of it, snuffed up the nose, produce giddiness, stupor, and vomiting; and, when applied in different ways, in larger quantity, there are many instances of its more violent effects, even of its proving a mortal poison. In all these instances, it operates in the manner of other narcotics, but, along with its narcotic qualities, it possesses also a strong stimulant power, perhaps with respect to the whole system, but especially with respect to the stomach and intestines, so as readily, even in no great doses, to prove emetic and purgative. By this combination of qualities, all the effects of tobacco may be explained; but I shall begin with considering its effects as they appear in the use of it as an article of living. When snuff is first employed, if it be not both in small quantity, and be not thrown out immediately by sneezing, it occasions some giddiness and confusion of the head; but, by repetition, these effects cease to be produced, and no other effect of it appears in the accustomed, when not taken beyond the usual quantity. But, even in the habituated, when it is taken beyond the usual quantity, it produces somewhat of the same giddiness and confusion of head that it did when first employed; and, in several cases, these effects in persons accustomed, depending on a larger dose, are not only more considerable, as they act on the sensorium, but as they appear also in other parts of the system, particularly in the stomach, occasioning a loss of appetite, and other symptoms of a weakened tone in that organ. With respect to this, it is to be observed, that persons who take a great deal of snuff, though they seem, from the power of habit, to escape its narcotic effects, yet, as they are often liable to go to excess in the quantity taken, so they are still in danger from these effects operating in an insensible manner; and I have observed several instances of their being affected in the same manner as persons are from the long use of other narcotics, such as wine and opium, —that is, by a loss of memory, by a fatuity, and other symptoms of the weakened or senile state of the nervous system, induced before the usual period. Among other effects of excess in snuffing, I have found all the symptoms of dyspepsy produced by it, and particularly pains of the stomach, occurring every day. The dependence of those upon the use of snuff became very evident from hence, that, upon an accidental interruption of snuffing for some days, these pains did not occur, but, upon a return to snuffing, the pains also recur-red; and this alternation of pains of the stomach and of snuffing having occurred again, the snuff was entirely laid aside, and the pains did not recur for many months after, nor, so far as I know, for the rest of life. Another effect of snuff to be taken notice of is, that, as a part of the snuff is often carried back into the fauces, so a part of this is often carried down into the stomach, and then more certainly produces the dyspeptic symptoms mentioned. These are the considerations that relate to snuffing; and some of them will readily apply to the other modes of using this drug. Smoking, when first practised, shows very strongly the narcotic, vomiting, and even purging powers of tobacco, and it is very often useful as an anodyne; but, by repetition, these effects disappear, or only show themselves when the quantity smoked is beyond what habit had before admitted of; and, even in persons much accustomed to it, it may be carried so far as to prove a mortal poison. From much smoking, all the same effects may arise which we said might arise from excess of snuffing. With respect to the evacuation of mucus, which is produced by snuffing, there are analogous effects produced by smoking, which commonly stimulates the mucous follicles of the mouth and fauces, particularly the excretories of the salivary glands. Sometimes smoking dries the mouth and fauces, and occasions a demand for drink; but as commonly the stimulus it applies to the mucous follicles and salivary glands draws forth their liquids, it occasions, on the other hand, a frequent spitting. So far as this is of the proper saliva, it occasions a waste of that liquid, so necessary in the business of digestion; and, both by this waste, and by the narcotic power at the same time applied, the tone of the stomach is often weakened, and every kind of dyspeptic symptoms are produced. The third mode of using tobacco is that of chewing it, when it shows its narcotic qualities as strongly as in any other way of applying it, though the nauseous taste of it commonly prevents its being carried far in the first practice. When the practice, however, is continued, as it is very difficult to avoid some part of it, dissolved in the saliva, from going down into the stomach, so this, with the nausea excited by the taste, makes vomiting more readily occasioned by this than the other modes of applying it. They are the strong, and even disagreeable, impressions repeated, that give the most durable and tenacious habits, and, therefore, the chewing of tobacco is apt to become one of these; and it is. therefore, in this way that it is ready to be carried to the greatest excess, and to show all the effects of the frequent and large use of narcotics. This practice is also the occasion of the greatest loss of saliva; and the effects of this in weakening digestion, and perhaps, from thence especially its noted effect of producing emaciation, may appear."

Several cases of disease are mentioned, in which the use of tobacco is said to be beneficial; but it appears to be the conviction of this great physician, that, in none of its forms, can it be beneficial to the healthy subject.

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