SMOKING AND ITS ENEMIES:|
A SHORT HISTORY OF 500 YEARS OF THE USE AND PROHIBITION OF TOBACCO
Introduction by Lord Harris of High Cross
I -- A Purely Private Affair, But
The Ultimate End of the Anti-Smoking Movement
The Intellectual Pedigree of the Anti-Smokers
Whether The End Can Be Attained
The European Discovery
Smoking Before Columbus
Tobacco in America
Its Spread Throughout the World
Italy and Elsewhere
The Reasons for Its Spread
Alleged Medical Benefits
Tobacco Turns to Gold
Continued Opposition in England
The American Anti-Tobacco Movement
By Lord Harris of High Cross
This absorbing account of people's long and varied use of tobacco may drive today's progressive prohibitionists to conclude that much of history should not have been allowed to happen. The author, Sean Gabb, is a non-smoker who admits a devotion to individual freedom. But he is also a student of history and a free-lance writer who knows how to draw on the extensive literature since classical times and understands how to tell a good story. Only a bigot will find nothing here to tickle his fancy.
It turns out that the red Indians were not alone in thinking the customary pipe of peace was also a remedy for many maladies. Our modern abolitionists will surely be rendered speechless for a change to read of medical doctors who prescribed it a remedy for the bubonic plague and of schoolchildren, including young Etonians, being compelled to puff a pipe daily to keep them healthy.
But let the outraged practitioners of the negative tendency read on in search of consolation. They may be cheered up to learn that their forerunners in the persecution of smokers did not shirk from open, outright prohibition upon pain of death. Our modern milder authoritarians may be astonished by their own moderation. Yet they can hardly fail to be puzzled that smokers have somehow managed to survive the effects both of the "noxious weed" and of such stern punishments. Not only did smoking persist but its popularity has spread to the furthest corners of the earth.
From this well-documented record Sean Gabb has no difficulty concluding that supporters of Action on Smoking and Health and Parents Against Tobacco are doomed to fail in their secret aim of prohibiting a practice so plainly pleasurable and so powerfully persistent.
SMOKING AND ITS ENEMIES: A SHORT HISTORY OF 500 YEARS OF THE USE AND PROHIBITION OF TOBACCO
by Sean Gabb
PART I: A PURELY PRIVATE AFFAIR, BUT ...On Monday, the 18th of September, 1989, the United Kingdom division of the Ford Motor Company made a rather significant change to the terms on which 12,500 of its office staff were employed. It announced that, as of the following January, they would be banned from smoking anywhere at work except in designated areas - and here only "provided it [did] not adversely affect those in the non-smoking areas". (1)
I took note of this announcement neither because I was likely to be affected by it, nor because I am someone who believes in the right to smoke a cigarette in any place, at any time, regardless of the wishes of others. I do not work for Ford, nor probably ever shall. I am not a smoker. With the exception of snuff - which I take mentholated for my sinuses, and which is not yet under attack from any quarter (2) - my experiences of tobacco products have usually been unpleasant. I readily admit that some of them are almost certainly bad for the health. My interest in tobacco, and in all the news regarding it, stems almost entirely from libertarian principle. Calculations of personal risk are for individuals alone to make for themselves. Even if it could be shown that non-smokers were endangered by the exhalations of smokers - and the present evidence is such that only fools and fanatics could ever accept it (3) - there would be no case for State action, but only for a more urgent formulation of private arrangements.
Arguing on these grounds, I cannot, and will not, claim that Ford had no right to impose its ban. There was no question of liberty involved. One group of people - namely the Directors of the Company - announced the terms on which it would continue to associate with another group of people - namely the Company's office staff. So far as I am aware, the Company enjoys no government subsidy or special protection of the sort that would justify my intervening as a concerned taxpayer. Nor, to my knowledge, have I any money invested in the Company. I can, as a consumer, boycott all Ford products until the ban has been removed - and I probably will. Beyond this, I readily admit, what Ford did was none of my business.
Even so, I was greatly disturbed by the news. For, though a private decision, it was claimed as a victory for one of the most ludicrous yet sinister organisations in British public life, namely, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which loudly and promptly applauded Ford's decision. David Simpson, the Director of ASH, greeted the news of the Ford ban: "For the first time" he enthused, "I really feel there is no stopping us" (4).
The Ultimate End of the Anti-Smoking Movement
What I propose in this paper is to ask two questions. The first is: what is meant by these words - "there is no stopping us"? The second is, whether they will succeed in attaining their goal.
What would represent final victory in the war against tobacco? The answer is simple: it would be a full prohibition, on public and private use of tobacco. Simpson, I grant, for all his other faults, is no fool. He knows perfectly well how far he can go in his public statements; and, if he ever reads my accusation, and thinks the effort worthwhile, he will deny it. "When did I ever call for this?" he might ask. "When did I ever call for more than tighter curbs on advertising, and on smoking in public, and for higher taxes on tobacco products?"
If I ever were drawn into a debate of this kind, I might answer that Mr Simpson has used words that, given their plain, grammatical meaning, do call for prohibition. Appearing on the Channel Four programme, "Right to Reply", on the 17th February, 1990, he declared that "if cigarettes were invented today, there's no way they'd be allowed to be made, never mind advertised or promoted in any other way .... No decent society would actually allow, willy nilly, the promotion of a product even a tenth as dangerous as cigarettes. So that's why we want to ban them". I can but imagine that he would, if confronted with it, claim that words uttered unscripted on television ought not be given their plain, grammatical meaning - that the plural object of the verb "ban" was not intended to be cigarettes, but the activities of their advertisers and promoters. Let us accept, for the moment, such a conjectural excuse, showing Mr Simpson an indulgence that he would never show me. (5) For, taking only his considered public statements, we can still see the grossly illiberal nature of his movement's aims.
In plain English, "curbs on advertising" mean censorship. There is no difference in principle between forbidding a cigarette advertisement and forbidding an attack on the Government. Both involve telling a publisher what he can and cannot do. Curbs on the public use of tobacco are a direct violation of property rights, since many "public places" - cinemas, theatres, restaurants and so forth - are privately owned. For lower income groups a higher excise duty on cigarettes differs little from an outright ban on their sale. The burden of the taxes already imposed raises prices by an average of 200 per cent. I doubt whether raising them to the point where a packet of twenty cost £5 or even £10 would fully satisfy the clamour made every Budget Day.
Such illiberal aims point clearly to the one final aim of prohibition. Anyone who believes that the more dedicated members of the anti-smoking movement will settle for less has been taken in by the velvet glove. For the moment, the means used are largely indirect. The intention is to shrink smokers into a small minority enough for the iron fist to be produced.
As evidence, recall the fate of Skoal Bandits. These were strange tobacco bags that were to be put in the mouth and sucked. They never caught on, remaining plainly a minority taste. Without millions of users to defend them, they were fair game. At the first hint of evidence linking them with mouth cancer, up went the cry for prohibition; and the sale of oral snuff became a criminal offence on the l3th of March, 1990. (6)
Recall too the impending fate of Senior Service, Capstan and Gold Flake cigarettes - which on account of their tar content, have been declining in popularity for years. On the l3th of November, 1989, no less than the Council of Ministers in Brussels proposed a maximum limit of l5mg of tar per cigarette to come into effect at the end of 1992, effectively prohibiting the sale of these brands. (7). Commenting, a spokesman for the Tobacco Advisory Council said: "What we are seeing by this EEC legislation is virtually the end of un-tipped cigarettes in the UK" (8). His comment fell short of the probable truth. It was further decided that, from 1997, the limit would be reduced to l2mg of tar per cigarette. The only objection was - as might be expected - put up on behalf of the British Government. Its objection, however, was grounded not on any regard for the traditional, and bloodily earned and defended, rights of Englishmen, but on the claim that matters of health ought to be decided by the national governments of the Common Market. The only question debated was thus whether we should be oppressed from Brussels or from London. In these respects, the banning of tobacco products is no future prospect, but a present fact.
The Intellectual Pedigree of the Anti-Smokers
When I first heard the term "health-fascism" used to describe the anti-smoking movement, I felt some doubt as to its propriety. The word "fascist" had been so overused that it seemed to have lost all meaning, save as a strong but vague pejorative. On reflection, I think I was wrong. Such intellectual pedigree as the anti-smokers have can be traced, not to anything English, or even anything within the more general Western tradition of the past two centuries, but to German National Socialism.
Many fads taken up by the "concerned middle-class progressives" through the pages of The Guardian and New Statesman and Society, the followers of Adolf Hitler took up before them. Animal rights, vegetarianism, whole-grain bread and other "organic" foods, natural childbirth - each had as its first modern promoters the National Socialists. So with smoking. Hitler and Himmler were both extreme haters of tobacco, and would have no one smoke in their presence. The Party ideologues condemned it as a "race poison" and called for restrictions (9). Unlike the leaders of ASH, they had no need to be mealy-mouthed, but openly attacked as a "liberal perversion" the view that the individual should have the right to dispose of his body as he saw fit - the "Recht auf den eigenen Korper". They spoke instead of the "obligation to be healthy" - the "Pflicht zur Gezundheit" (10). Since health was now an integral part of the German national interest, they argued, it could no longer be possible to tolerate substances damaging to society as a whole, whatever the wishes of individuals consuming them (11).
Compare with this the words from 1980 of Sir George Young, then a junior health minister in the government of Mrs Margaret Thatcher:
"The traditional role of politicians has been to prevent an individual causing harm to others, but to allow him to do harm to himself. However, as modern society has made us all more interdependent, this attitude is now changing" (12).
When, in 1944, Friedrich Hayek delivered his famous warning, that England was coming more and more to tread the "Road to Serfdom", he was laughed at. What better proof could be wanted, though, than the debate on smoking to show the gradual eclipse of our regard for individual rights by an imported authoritarianism?
Whether the End Can Be Achieved
But I digress. Having settled that the probable, if still covert, aim of the anti-smokers is to ban tobacco, I move to my second question, which is: whether these people are likely to succeed? If I look over the course of my own life, and of the decade or so preceding my birth in 1960, I might feel moved to answer "yes". Except where the revenue is concerned, they have won the backing of the State. The tobacco companies have been compelled, under threat of legal sanctions, to adopt a "voluntary " code on advertising. They have been compelled - in part by law, in part by improper pressure - to cry down their products by putting health warnings over them. Central and local government both spend large sums of our money on propaganda against smoking. Various pressures are put on government employees not to smoke at work (13). There have been actual prohibitions. If I look ahead, I would see every reason for gloom. The anti-smoking movement seems to be in the position of an army that, after a long and closely fought battle, is on the point of scattering its enemy. "There is no stopping us" says David Simpson. He really does believe that a time will inevitably come, sooner rather than later, when no one shall ever more need to scrub the nicotine stains from his fingers.
This would be a horrible and a depressing prospect. Yet I doubt whether I, or anyone else now alive, will see it. There have been customs that, observed by millions in generation after generation, have died out with the advance of our knowledge, or have been suppressed by overwhelming force. But I doubt whether the use of tobacco will vanish like touching for the King's Evil in England, or the binding of women's feet in China. It is something wholly different. If we extrapolate the past 40 years of shrill campaigning, we would plot a line leading inexorably to prohibition. But, if we look instead over the entire period of almost 500 years since tobacco and the Old World made each other's acquaintance, we find stronger solid reasons for optimism. We shall see that the appeal of tobacco to those using it has always been so immediate and profound that any hope of outlawing it has been utterly vain.
PART II: TOBACCO AND MANKIND
The European Discovery
It was shortly after Friday, the 12th of October, 1492 (14) that the acquaintance was made. On this day, after a voyage of 71 days, Christopher Columbus had his first sight of the Americas. Around noon, with his senior officers he set foot on Watling Island and raised the Cross and the flag of Castille, claiming possession of the country in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella, the joint monarchs of a Spain only lately reconquered from Islam but rapidly becoming the first power of Christendom. The natives who came down to the shore to watch this ceremony could have no idea of its meaning; and, assuming that the strangers had come in peace, made welcome offerings of beads and choice fruits and other objects considered valuable.
Among these objects were the dried, yellowish, strangely aromatic leaves of an unknown plant. The sailors took these along with all else that was offered, but, seeing no use for them, threw them overboard into the sea. What they were there chiefly in search of was gold. It was their desire for riches that had supported them during an Atlantic crossing of 71 days. By and large, they went home disappointed. But, if it was the crimes of Cortez and Pizarro that were to unleash the great, and ultimately ruinous, flood of bullion into the Iberian Peninsula, Columbus and his men had still found gold after a fashion.
Smoking Before Columbus
It would be wrong to say that smoking in various forms dates from the 1490s. Much had long been known in the Old World about the various uses of smoke. From the earliest times, incense had been burned as an accompaniment to worship. Its use, so far as can be told, began in Egypt or Babylonia, and was copied by the other nations of antiquity. When, for some transgression, God smote the wandering Israelites with a plague, it was with an offering of incense that His wrath was turned aside (15). Later, in the Temple as Jerusalem, a vase of the costliest incense burned day and night outside the Holy of Holies. Among the Greeks and Romans, its price rose so high that the Alexandrian frankincense refiners were sealed into their working clothes, but were still stripped and searched at the end of their shift (16). During the middle ages, both Christians and Moslems continued the practice of burning incense, and have continued it to this day. But, pleasant as its smell might often be, a stick of incense has few uses beyond the ceremonial or the fumigatory.
The Priestess of the Oracle at Delphi is said to have uttered her prophesies while drunk on the vapours that issued from a cleft in the rocks beneath her feet. No such cleft has ever been found, and it seems likely that whatever she inhaled was brought in by the priests whose living it was to put her ravings into competent, if often meaningless, hexameter verses. But, though respected, hers was not a popular office. Few held it willingly (17). Nor were the observed effects of her smoking such as to encourage imitation.
Smoking was recommended by the doctors, but hardly sounds much fun. The smoke from burning hare's fur was prescribed as an expectorant (18). Burning goat's horn was used to diagnose epilepsy (19). For consumption, there was the smoke, inhaled through a reed, of dried dung from an ox fed on grass (20).
Herodotus, describing the bathing habits of the ancient Scythians, tells how they would make a little tent by wrapping a woollen cloth round a tripod of sticks, and inside place a dish of red hot stones. "Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on to the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour-bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much that they howl with pleasure. This is their substitute for a bath in water, which they never use" (21). While an improvement on smoking dried ox dung, this vile custom remained exclusive to the Scythians.
Much was known in the Old World about the practice of smoking, but since there was no tobacco, people did not smoke. Despite all contrary claims we are quite certain that tobacco was unknown. The genus Nicotiana, of which the most popular and widely cultivated species is now the tabacum, is native in its original state only to the Americas. In common with the potato, the tomato, the egg-plant and the chili pepper, all members of the great "solanaceae" family of plants, its introduction to the European palate had to wait until after Columbus had made his voyage across the Atlantic.
Tobacco in America
How and when tobacco was first used in America no one knows. What accounts we have are fables rather than history (22). Perhaps there was a single discovery the news of which was spread. Perhaps, as with fire and farming, there were many parallel discoveries. All we can tell is that tobacco was already known around the start of the Christian era, and that its use was gradually adopted throughout the nations of central and most of north and south America. It was used by the Mayans at about the time of the birth of Christ. While the subjects of Hadrian were courting favour with gifts of incense to the unfortunate but deified Antinous, these cultivated inhabitants of southern Mexico were smoking crude cigarettes. They had no rice paper, but would wrap their tobacco in palm leaves or corn husks; or they would use reeds or bamboo; or they would use tobacco leaves and roll cigars. It was used by the Indians further north. They made pipes for themselves - sometimes with bowl and stem, to be held in the mouth, sometimes shaped like a Y, the forked extremities to go in the nostrils - and smoked their tobacco with other plants to vary its flavour or to make it go further. The Aztecs both smoked and snuffed. Elsewhere, tobacco was chewed, eaten, drunk as an infusion, or rubbed into the body. Excepting the hypodermic injection of nicotine, which has never yet become popular, our own uses of tobacco were all discovered long ago in America. The rest of mankind had only to imitate.
Its Spread Throughout the World
Smoking spread as briskly as the slow communications of the day would allow. During the early years of the sixteenth century, as Europeans crossed the Atlantic in growing numbers, or stayed at home and read the travellers' accounts (23), the habit of "smoke drinking" attracted a certain interest. The first white man to try it for himself may have been Rodrigo de Jerez, who had sailed with Columbus in 1492. Certainly, by the early years of the new century, many of the Spaniards living in Hispaniola had taken to smoking cigars.
Yet, if it was the Spanish who first took up the use of tobacco, it was the Portuguese, before the rise of the Dutch and English as masters of international commerce - who did most to convert the rest of the world. It was in Portugal that the tobacco plant was first cultivated outside of the Americas, its introduction having occurred around 1512. By 1558, snuff was on sale in the markets of Lisbon.
It was from Portugal that the French received tobacco. In 1559, one Jean Nicot of Nimes, arrived in Lisbon to negotiate a marriage between the young King of Portugal and the French King's daughter in order to cement an alliance against the now overwhelming power of Spain. The marriage never took place; but Nicot, eager to keep his government informed of anything new or unusual, did send specimens of the tobacco plant back to Paris. Although it was at first called l'herbe du Grand Prieur, in honour of the Church dignitary by whom the specimens had been sent, the French by 1570 had settled on the modern botanical name for the plant Nicotiana (24). Within a few years also, they had become inveterate snuffers. Tradition relates that it was Charles, Duke of Lorraine, who was the first Frenchman to take to the habit, his own consumption rising eventually to three ounces per day (25). In any event, snuff was all the rage at Court by the second decade of the seventeenth century.
Italy and Elsewhere
From Portugal, tobacco was also introduced to Rome. The Papal Nuncio at Lisbon - perhaps following Nicot's example - sent specimens to his master, Pius IV. It then travelled to the other Italian cities, and from there into Germany, Hungary, and the other nations of northern and central Europe, where its spread was greatly hastened by the unusual movements of armies and populations occasioned by the Thirty Years War.
Although the claim has been made, it was probably not from Portugal that tobacco came to England. Not only had the English already begun their own exploration of the New World, but their settlements in Virginia were founded among pipe-smoking Indians; and, when tobacco made its appearance in England, during the third quarter of the sixteenth century, it was smoked in pipes. The Portuguese were only later smokers rather than snuffers. It may be, then, that the habit was brought direct from America. The claim is made that it was first brought over by Sir Walter Raleigh. He was certainly one of the first men in England to smoke. There is a story, which may or may not be true, that as he sat one day smoking a pipe of tobacco at home, one of his servants came and saw the smoke. Thinking the worst he allegedly poured a jug of water over his master.
Be this as it may, smoking was soon thoroughly established in England. The yeoman resting at his plough would smoke a little pipe, its bowl a halved walnut shell, its stem a straw. Some men of fashion would go to the length of carrying pipes made of silver. But the majority of smokers, then as for the next few hundred years, preferred those pipes of fragile white clay that are still occasionally to be found on sale in the better tobacconists. In 1596, a German traveller, commenting on the theatres and other amusements like bull-baiting and bear-baiting, described how
"[a]t these spectacles, and everywhere else, the English are constantly smoking the Nicotian weed, which in America is called Tobaca - others call it Paetum - and generally in this manner: they have pipes on purpose, made of clay, into the farther end of which they put the herb, so dry that it may be rubbed into powder, and lighting it, they draw the smoke into their mouths, which they puff out again through their nostrils, like funnels, along with it plenty of defluxion and phlegm from the head". (26)
From England, the habit spread first into Holland and then throughout the rest of Europe.
Its introduction was made into the Ottoman dominions about the end of the sixteenth century. Since the Portuguese were active in the Turkey trade, as elsewhere, it may have been they who introduced it. But, by whatever route it first entered, its use rapidly increased to the point where later observers would reason that tobacco had not come from America at all, but from the Levant. To this day, some of the best blends come from Turkey and Syria. No atonement could absolve the Turks from the destruction of Byzantium. But their planting of tobacco in Macedonia has given the modern Greeks some economic reason for not grumbling quite so loudly as they do. By the Turks its use was also spread east, into Persia and the culturally dependent areas of central Asia.
It was undoubtedly the Portuguese who took it to India. The Brahmins at first had certain religious scruples against smoking, since to carry anything to the lips more than once was to risk defiling themselves with a bodily excrement. But they had nothing against snuffing, and members of the lower castes and the other religions had no objection at all to smoking. Before long, the cultivation and export of tobacco were a considerable business. It was actually from India, rather than America, that the cigar was taken to England, our word cheroot being a corruption of the Tamil shuruttu.
By the Portuguese also, it was taken to Japan, where smoking was immediately adopted among every class of subjects, from the geisha girls to workers in the rice fields. The Japanese words for "tobacco merchant" appear as early as 1578. By 1607, the city of Hokubu was famous for its blends of tobacco. From Japan it was spread to Korea, for a few years after 1598 a Japanese colony. Tobacco remains Korea's main agricultural export.
To China it was introduced from several directions. It came from Korea, from the Spanish settlements in the Philippines, and from Portuguese Macao. It quickly spread through the whole of the Empire. The Chinese soon developed their own strains of tobacco, and began making pipes of bamboo, ebony, ivory, base and precious metals, and even glass. Their glass snuff boxes are still prized items of sale in any auction room. From India and China, tobacco was spread to those parts of the Eurasian land mass to which it had not already been introduced. When the Russians began their vast imperial expansion under Peter The Great, there were few places where tobacco was unknown.
It was from Portugal, again, that tobacco was first taken to Africa. As early as 1607, the natives of the west coast had been taught its use. Among the Congolese, the very word for smoking, fumu, comes from the Portuguese fumo. Into the southern part of the continent tobacco was taken by the Dutch in 1652. The Cape settlers found the soil admirably suited for its cultivation, and they had soon begun a profitable trade with the Hottentots. In north East Africa, the Galles had their tobacco from Europe, but found their own use for it. They neither smoked it nor ground it into snuff, but would ferment it, strain off the liquid and chew what remained. They would sometimes improve the flavour by mixing with cow dung (27).
That the Arabs first learned of tobacco from the Portuguese is recalled by one of their words for it - Portugal. Its cultivation was already established in Mecca and Medina by 1605. The Egyptians have been regular smokers at least since 1603.
PART III: THE USE OF TOBACCO:
A UNIVERSAL CUSTOM
In 1560, the nations of the Old World could be divided into those among which tobacco was used and those among which it was not. By 1660, this division had ceased very largely to exist. In almost no other respect, was humanity yet united in culture. There was no common language. The devout of every religion had little more in common than a mutual bigotry. The Jew ate no pork, the Hindu no beef. The strict Moslem drank no wine. In Europe, no woman but a whore bared her legs in public. In parts of Africa and South America even royalty went about stark naked. In England, bigamy was a hanging offence. The wealthy Turk took pride in his seraglio. The Confucian put all hopes of futurity in the progress of his sons. The Mingrelian killed and ate his sons, and had often previously gelded them to increase their succulence. Beyond certain essential laws the range of more or less optional morality differed without end. Yet, within a century, the use of tobacco had been spread from the Americas into every part of the world to which the merchants could gain access; and, in spite of every change of fashion and other circumstances since then, tobacco has retained the widest regard of mankind.
The Reasons for its Spread
Smoking spread because nothing else has ever been discovered more exactly suited to the meeting of certain common wants.
First among these wants are the physical. Tobacco brings enjoyment, or at least relief. For some, it has been known to banish hunger and thirst. For others, it makes eating and drinking more pleasant. It takes the mind off grief. It aids contemplation. It stimulates. It relaxes. One cigarette soothes a smoker's mind in readiness for bed, and another sets him up in the morning. The effects of tobacco depend oddly on what is wanted from it. But, whatever they are, these effects are generally welcomed. It was Sir Compton Mackenzie's opinion that without his continual pipe-smoking, he would not have written half of what he did. Nothing served so well for composing his mind to work. "I would argue" he writes, "that every man, whatever his race, whatever his rank, whatever his profession, whatever his work, is helped by smoking" (28).
Bismark would have agreed. A cigar, he said,
"acts as a mild sedative without in any way impairing our mental faculties. [It] is a sort of diversion: as the blue smoke curls upward the eye involuntarily follows it; the effect is soothing, one feels better tempered". (29)
Napoleon III, whose destruction was Bismark's greatest and most terrible achievement, would also have agreed. He did much to popularise the cigarette in France, his own consumption of them running to what was then thought the remarkable number of 50 a day (30). He so entirely lacked his uncle's disregard for the lives of others that he could bear to watch his battles only by chain smoking throughout.
If for a somewhat perverse reason, Wilde might also have agreed. "You must have a cigarette" he has Lord Arthur Wotton say to the painter. "A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?" (31).
For Florence King, a cigarette is a "uniquely pleasurable footnote to sex....
"I remember those easy-going smoking sessions with [one of my lovers]: the click of the lighter, the brief orange glow in the darkness, the ashtray between us - spilling sometimes because we laughed so much that the bed shook". (32)
For the modern smoker, there are the medical risks to be borne in mind. But, while very few of us wish to die, there is more to life than delaying of death. Nor is it certain that a life made miserable by the denial of every possibly dangerous pleasure will be a long one. As Homer had Glaucus address Sarpedon nearly 3,000 years ago:
Oh, my dearest friend, if only, escaped
from this battle, we could live ageless and immortal,
neither would I fight in the foremost ranks, nor would
send you into
the struggle that gives men renown. But now
(since ten thousand shapes of death forever
stand about us, and no mortal may flee or
avoid them), let us advance". (33)
And the older smokers often had a different view of the relationship between tobacco and health.
Alleged Medical Benefits
The American Indians had long believed in its medicinal properties. It was taken by them as a cure for toothache, frostbite, burns, venereal ulcerations and rashes, malignant tumours, and much else. The European doctors showed an immediate interest. It was tried on a variety of conditions, and belief in its efficacy became, during the first half of the seventeenth century, quite extravagant. Sometimes, not all the advertising of the tobacconists could rival the advocacy of certain medical writers. By one Dr Johannes Vittich it was even claimed that: "[t]here can be no doubt that tobacco can cleanse all impurities and disperse every gross and viscous humour, as we find by daily experience. It cures cancer of the breast, open and eating sores, scabs and scratches, however poisonous and septic, goitre, broken limbs, erysipelas, and many other things. It will heal wounds in the arms, legs and other members of the body, of however long standing ". (34)
It was lauded particularly as a preventive of the bubonic plague, until the eighteenth century a regular and dreaded visitor to Western Europe. During an outbreak at Nimeguen in 1636, Dr Isbrand van Diemerbroek credited his survival, despite his unfearing devotion to the sick, to his heavy smoking. Once, believing himself overcome by the contagion, he had to hurry home, and believed that he was saved only by his promptness in smoking "six or seven pipes of tobacco" (35). Twenty nine years later, the plague made its last and most celebrated appearance in London, where, among a population of just under half a million, it soon killed 70,000 (36). In his diary entry for the 7th of June of that year, Samuel Pepys testifies to the continued belief in tobacco:
"This day, much against my Will, I did in Drury-lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and "Lord have mercy upon us" writ there - which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell and to chew, which took away the apprehension". (37)
It was now that the boys of Eton College were told to smoke a pipe every morning to keep them healthy. One old boy later told Thomas Hearne, the antiquarian, how he had been flogged when found not smoking his ration (38). Elsewhere in England, tobacco had for some time only been denied to girls. Writing of his travels through England in 1666, Jorevin de Rochefort records how, in the course of a visit to Worcester, his friend:
"asked me if it was the custom in France, as in England, that when the children went to school, they carried in their satchels, with their books, a pipe of tobacco, which their mothers took care to fill early in the morning, it serving them instead of a breakfast; and that at the accustomed hour every one laid aside his book to light his pipe, the master smoking with them, and teaching them how to hold their pipes and draw in the tobacco; thus accustoming them to it from their youth, believing it absolutely necessary for a man's health". (39)
Medical attention was not confined to Europe. The Hottentots made it into powder and applied it as a specific against scorpion bites. The Chinese used it in the treatment of colds and skin diseases, as well as of malaria, skin parasites and obesity. Mixed with pine resin, its inhalation was supposed to remedy a bad circulation.
There were contrary opinions. Hadrianus Falckenburgius, one of the most famous doctors of the early seventeenth century, was convinced that tobacco injured the brain. There was a general revulsion of medical opinion as soon as the more extravagant claims were falsified. It was soon evident that tobacco did not set broken bones, or clear away skin rashes, or cure cancer, or prevent the plague. The doctors had fallen into a simple but common error. They had observed what was evident - that the immediate effects of tobacco were often to raise a patient's spirits; and these, even today, can do as much for recovery as the most powerful drug. Given a little optimism, and the utter lack of any statistical method, they went straight to their conclusion, that it could cure everything.
But this revulsion had its limits. Although tobacco was seen as less valuable, it was retained in the pharmacopoeia. Indeed, as recently as 1901, it was still suggested on good authority as a treatment for respiratory disorders (40). And its retention may have had good reason. Tobacco appears to aid digestion, and to loosen the more intractable deposits of mucous. Its calming effect on the mind is shared by various organs of the body; and there is a widespread view that a little smoking might help in the avoidance of ulcers and other conditions related to stress (41). Even today, with all that we have learned, or been taught to believe, it may be that tobacco is less an uncompromising enemy of the human body than an ambiguous and often costly friend.
It owed some part of its spread to the advice of the doctors. But its continued popularity derived from other causes. Its physical attractions alone would have guaranteed it a place. But then there were its social attractions.
Wherever tobacco has been introduced, it has rapidly become indispensable to most kinds of gathering.
The Indian peace pipe has become a cinematic cliche. Whether those who smoked it were always as faithful to their bond as the romantic anthropologists would have us believe may be doubted (42). But the value in dealings with strangers of a shared activity that relaxes without dulling the mind is obvious. It is the ideal aid to diplomacy; and cigarettes have been a moderating force in every kind of negotiation, from wage bargaining in the Midlands to settling disputes along the line dividing free from socialist Korea.
It has an equal value in the making of personal friends. There are few places where someone can sit down among perfect strangers and at once join in the conversation. In England, for sure, this sort of pushing-in is firmly discouraged. Without an introduction, most people tend to ignore each other. Words seem to be exchanged, if at all, for limited purposes. Anything beyond this is met with suspicion. Smoking is the traditional means of breaking through this reserve. For an early example, consider Joseph Addison:
"I was Yesterday in a Coffee-House not far from the Royal Exchange, where I observed three Persons in close Conference over a Pipe of Tobacco; upon which, having filled one for my own Use, I lighted it at the little Wax Candle that stood before them; and after having thrown in two or three Whiffs amongst them, sat down and made myself one of the Company. I need not tell my Reader, that lighting a Man's Pipe at the same Candle, is looked upon among Brother-smokers as an Overture to Conversation and Friendship".(43)
Nearly three centuries later, tobacco has much the same function. Imagine: Two strangers sit opposite in an otherwise empty railway carriage. After a long silence, one clears his throat and makes a desultory comment - on the weather perhaps, or some matter concerning the journey. An answer is made not deterring all further communication. A cigarette case is taken out and a cigarette offered. The price of one cigarette, even with the immense weight of the taxes heaped now on it, is small, though its value as a gift may be considerable. Not merely is a common activity joined, but friendship is offered. If accepted, the conversation can begin. It may have left one open to the attentions of a bore for the rest of the journey. It may have been the prelude to a lifelong attachment. More likely, it will simply have enabled the passing of a few hours more pleasantly than a silent counting of telegraph poles would have allowed. If Englishmen smoked less, they are continually told they would live longer. Beyond doubt, they would also make fewer friends.
Yet if tobacco can be used to dissolve barriers, it was also used to reinforce them. The inferior status of certain groups can be emphasised by restricting their access to tobacco or by forbidding a specific method of using it.
One example was seen in England after 1660. Before then, smoking - or, to a much smaller extent, quid-chewing - had been common to almost everyone who used tobacco, irrespective of wealth, status or opinion. The men who faced each other in the Parliament of 1641, and who subsequently faced each other on the battlefields of Naseby and Edge-Hill, were divided on nearly every fine point of constitutional and religious doctrine. They wore different clothes, and caroused in different fashions. They gave their children very different names. But, when they called for tobacco, it was from clay pipes of the same design that they smoked it. The Cavaliers who returned with Charles II, however, had passed at least a while in French exile, and had brought back to England an enthusiasm for France. During the next 30 years, Whitehall became in all respects, many thoroughly shameful, a satellite of Versailles, as London, became to a lesser extent one of Paris. Along with periwigs, moral laxity, a taste for rhymed drama, and all else by which the new courtiers and their clients set themselves apart from the rest of the nation, was snuff. Smoking was seen as the act of a provincial or a Puritan, never of a gentleman. Macaulay describes the most fashionable coffee houses of the period:
"The atmosphere was like that of a perfumer's shop. Tobacco in any other form than that of richly scented snuff was held in abomination. If any clown, ignorant of the usages of the house, called for a pipe, the sneers of the whole assembly and the short answers of the waiters soon convinced him that he had better go somewhere else". (44)
In turn, snuffing was seen as the act of a cold-hearted, sensual fop, with a hatred of the old Constitution and a taste for Roman Catholicism.
The Glorious Revolution put an end both to Royal absolutism and all attempts at a Counter-Reformation in England. But the distinction between those who smoked and those who snuffed remained throughout the eighteenth century. The coffee house described by Addison was filled with members of the commercial classes or the minor gentry. No one who pretended to any higher station would have willingly sat smoking in public. Edward Gibbon was the grandson of a City merchant, and, before the publication of his immortal History gave him a measure of independence, he earned much of his living from public sinecures given him in exchange for his vote in Parliament. Even so, he claimed descent from the same stock as the Hapsburgs, and his Swiss exile had left him with tastes more French than English. Accordingly, he took snuff. He would arrive in company dressed in such ornate splendour as almost to divert attention from the great hanging hydrocele (an extreme and prominent hernia) that was one day to kill him, and would make his jewelled snuff box into a visible punctuation of his discourse. Three loud raps with the fingers of his right hand would indicate that he had something to say that he considered of more than usual force and elegance. Sometimes, he would pause, with a flourish carry a pinch of the best snuff to each nostril, and then continue. It is easy, leaving aside his genius, to see Gibbon as a caricature of the eighteenth century man. But caricature is often no more than exaggeration; and, so far as the use of tobacco is concerned, it was only in the late nineteenth century, with thc introduction of the cheap cigar and of the cigarette, that the English returned to a form of use common to all classes.
Tobacco, said Thomas Corneille, is divine: it has no compare (45). Not surprisingly, in view of the plant's real and apparent qualities, this has often been taken as literally true. The American Indians familiar with its use believed without exception in its divine origin (46); and its ritual use appears to be as old as its discovery. Among the Mayans, it was regularly offered to the gods both as incense burned on the altars and as smoke from the mouths of the worshippers. One of the best preserved reliefs from their ancient temple at Palenque shows a priest smoking a cigarette. Among the Aztecs, it was a necessary accompaniment to the ceremonies at which thousands of captives were slain in sacrifice to the god Tezcatlipoca. The medicine men of the more primitive Tonoupinambaultiis tribe in Brazil would fill and light their pipes and puff the smoke into the faces of the assembled laity, the purpose being to transmit the heroic virtues. "The warriors, thus prepared, attacked their enemies with demoniac fury and almost inevitably were victorious". (47)
Similar notions were formed quite independently in the 0ld World. At
Dahomey, in West Africa, the dignitaries attending the rites of human
sacrifice formerly held there would each be assigned servants decorated
with imitation tobacco leaves; and the King, as principal smoker, would
puff smoke into the mouths of his guests. Among the Hottentots, as soon as
a boy was born, he would have a cigar put in his mouth, while his mother
bit off and ate his right testicle. This was considered a very beneficial
operation, giving the child, among other qualities, fleetness of foot
(48). In parts of Asia also, tobacco had, and sometimes still has, a
But, in Christian Europe, it had none. While its divinity was
proclaimed by the younger Corneille, he should be seen as making no more
than a poetical flourish - as following a convention according to which
every beloved was a goddess and every military patron a hero. The Roman
Church of which he was formally a member was in strong opposition to the
use of tobacco. Its grounds of opposition I have analysed elsewhere, (49),
and so I will do no more now than state them. Tobacco was disliked because
its use was seen as an 'unnatural' act, as contrary to the Biblical
pronouncements against drunkenness, and as a source of pleasure far too
great to be pleasing to a god whose chief desire it was - according to the
ascetic theologians - to make us and keep us unhappy in the present world.
Against this prejudice, the perceived benefits of tobacco use counted for
nothing; and the way was opened to its persecution.
PART IV: THE PERSECUTION OF TOBACCO
The earliest opposition came from the religious authorities in Spanish
America. Reinforcing the general prejudice in their case was one
particular consideration. The conversion of the natives went ahead for the
most part without any use, or even threat, of force. No matter how great
the secular crimes committed, there was in America no equivalent of the
religious oppression that accompanied the reconquestof Spain from the
Arabs. But, if, bearing in mind their faith and the age in which they
lived, the missionaries were not extreme bigots, they had brought one
conviction from home. They believed the signs of a true conversion to be
not only adherence to the doctrines of their Church and observance of its
ceremonies, but also a complete giving up of any practice that seemed at
all associated with the old faith. In Spain, the converted Jews and
Moslems were spied on to see how many more baths they took than their
longer- established brothers and sisters in Christ. In America, bearing in
mind all that was seen by the missionaries, it was impossible at first not
to make an association of tobacco with paganism. When the Indians came
into church, then, smoking for all the world as if they were at a pagan
ceremony, they met with the most severe disapproval.
In 1575, a Mexican ecclesiastical council forbade the use of tobacco in
any church throughout Spanish America. However, the prohibition was so
ineffective that even some priests had soon taken to its use. No amount of
propaganda could hold them from realising that an easy distinction could
be drawn between the religious and the other uses of tobacco (50). In
time, the distinction was to be made by everyone, as paganism was either
forgotten or concealed in the main centres of population; and the
religious opposition lapsed. But, before this was to happen, the penalties
against tobacco were increased. By a decree of the Provincial Council
convened at Lima in 1588, its use was forbidden to any priest, under pain
of eternal damnation, while at the altar. A year later, the Council of
Mexico declared that
"Out of regard for the reverence due to the Holy Eucharist, it is
hereby commanded that no tobacco in any form whatever be taken by clerics
before reciting Holy Mass, or by any person before receiving Holy
While there was never any general prohibition in Europe, local action
was occasionally taken. For example, by 1642, some of the clergy at
Seville had become habitual smokers and snuffers during the celebration of
the Mass. In that year, following complaints, Pope Urban VIII issued a
Bull forbidding the use of tobacco in any church throughout the diocese,
the penalty for infringement being immediate excommunication. His
successor, Innocent X, issued a similar Bull in 1650 to cover the Church
of St Peter in Rome.
Once this religious precedent was set the secular authorities soon
followed with prohibitions of their own.
The most important attacks within Christendom came in the Holy Roman
Empire, that loose confederation of states, nominally or actually under
Hapsburg control, which now roughly comprise Germany, Czechoslovakia and
northern Italy. The Thirty Years War, ending in 1648, though disastrous,
had settled the military debate on the Reformation. The individual states
of the Empire might still persecute dissenters within their own
jurisdictions; but the formula cuius regio eius religio - whose the
territory, his the established faith - had left the crusading zealots of
both sides frustrated. It is probably no coincidence that the cry against
tobacco went up within a few years of the War's ending.
Nothing could exactly replace the thrill of religious controversy. But,
being both new and popular, this was a good substitute enemy. Pens that
had formerly written for or against the Real Presence and Predestination
continued the same hysterical outpouring of ink, but in another direction.
The most famous of these diverted controversialists was Jakob Balde, a
Jesuit, whose writings reveal him as a something between the Juvenal and
the David Simpson of his age. Take, as examples, the following passages:
"So soon as a ship with tobacco from overseas comes into port- they
can scarce wait till the stinking cargo is unloaded - they take the first
boat they can find, and off they go to the vessel. Then a box must be
opened and a sample of tobacco cut off from the roll, that they may taste
the nasty stuff, into which they stick their teeth as greedily as if it
were the daintiest of morsels. If they find it to their liking, then they
are all athirst to enjoy it, and quite beside themselves with happiness.
After some gaping they begin to bargain and inquire the price; ducats
or golden guineas, 'tis all one to them- they grudge no expense for an
article like this: what is the good of money, they say, if it is to lie
idle in the purse? Money, we all know, is more precious than virtue, but
unto them tobacco is dearer still ....
What difference is there between a smoker and a suicide, except that
the one takes longer to kill himself than the other? Because of this
perpetual smoking, the pure oil of the lamp of life dries up and
disappears, and the fair flame of life itself flickers out, and goes out
all because of this barbarous habit". (52)
In 1653 a committee of Saxon Bishops and university professors issued a
manifesto less wild in its tone but still containing the following:
"It is both godless and unseemly that the mouth of man, which is the
means of entrance and exit for the immortal soul, that mouth which is
intended to breath the fresh air and to utter the praises of the Most
High, should be defiled by the indrawing and expelling of tobacco smoke".
The authorities were often of the same mind. In Cologne, as early as
1649, the Archbishop - who was also the political sovereign - decreed a
general prohibition of the "sale and purchase and use of tobacco
everywhere, under penalty of incurring Our high displeasure and
punishment, together with the confiscation of the tobacco and the pipes"
(54). The punishment was a fine or imprisonment, the severity of each
increasing with a repetition of the offence. One reason given in the
decree was the risk of fire. In those days of closely built, timber
houses, before either household insurance or efficient fire fighting
services, this was a dangerous risk, and goes some way, it must be
granted, to explain the dislike of tobacco. But, while smoking might
understandably be legislated against, neither snuffing nor quid-chewing
could have involved any threat of fire. I might add that the prohibition
covered the medical use of tobacco. What kind of concern does a government
show for its subjects when it bars them from a substance that - however
falsely - they believe to be a valuable medicine?
In 1652, the electors of Bavaria and Saxony issued general
prohibitions. That same year, they were joined by the Moravian Diet.
Within a few years, much of the Empire was covered at least by
restrictions on smoking or the other uses of tobacco, where not by
prohibitions. Until 1691, in Luneburg, smoking even carried the death
Needless to say, these had no large effect- save, perhaps, to bring the
law into disrepute by reason of its perversion to immoral and unattainable
ends. In 1662 a proclamation to the Bohemians complained how, in spite of
all efforts at suppressing it, tobacco was now smoked by everyone - even
in the streets. "The common people" it stated
"are so given up to the abuse that they imagine they cannot live
without several pipes of tobacco a day - thus squandering in these
necessitous times the pennies that they need for their daily bread".
A similar experience was suffered in parts of Switzerland where
Calvinism held sway. Inspired by this gloomy - and, in many respects,
scandalous - doctrine, the authorities proceeded against tobacco with the
same ferocity as they brought to their other interferences in what should
have been matters of private choice. After the first laws had utterly
failed, more severe ones were tried. In Zurich, for example, in 1667, it
was decided by the Burgomaster and Council that offenders should be
>set to work on the city walls. If they were caught again, they would
be beaten with rods, or branded, or exiled. In Berne, a table of police
regulations based on the Ten Commandments was drawn up, and smoking was
included in the prohibition of adultery. In 1675, an institution known as
the Tobacco Chamber, and modelled on the Roman Inquisition, was founded,
its purpose being to track down and punish all users of tobacco. But these
laws were just as complete a failure as the first. The Swiss were too fond
of their tobacco. Some of them, moreover, were beginning to make large
sums by trading in it. The authorities in Basle, which had become home to
an international market in tobacco, refused all commands and persuasions
to interfere in the trade.
The government of Russia in the l7th century, as always, was less
restrained than its Western counterparts in ensuring obedience to its
will. The Orthodox clergy there took against tobacco for much the same
reasons as the Roman Church. But, ignorant of Augustine and Aquinas - and,
for that matter, of all speculative theology - they preferred to base
their opposition on the text: "The things which come out of him, those are
they that defile the man" (56). They had a firm ally in Michael
Feodorovich, the first Romanov Czar. His reign, from 1613, to 1645, was an
age of fierce persecution for all smokers or other users of tobacco. He
declared its use a deadly sin, and forbade possession for any purpose. A
Tobacco Court was established to try breaches of the law. Its usual
punishments were slitting of the lips, or a terrible, and sometimes
deadly, flogging with the knout. Occasionally, offenders were castrated;
or, if they were rich, they were exiled to Siberia, and their property was
The most extreme persecution took place in the Ottoman Empire. Though
still at the height of its power, and still able, as late as 1683 to have
an army, lay siege to Vienna, the Empire was in decline. The stern, but
limited, authoritarianism that had allowed the Turks to conquer the whole
southern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean, from Casablanca to Baghdad,
from Budapest to Aswan, had given way to the worst form of oriental
despotism. Each new Sultan emerged from a seraglio intrigue. He secured
his power by a massacre of his brothers. His exercise of power was
restrained neither by any institution nor by custom. He ruled his capital
through a cabal of eunuchs and favourites, and the provinces through
governors answerable to him alone. In spite of this, there were Sultans of
distinction, and even greatness, whose efforts did much to ensure the
Empire's survival into the present century. But there were also Sultans
who might, in every particular, have stepped out of the pages of Suetonius
and Tacitus. Murad IV, who ruled between 1623 and 1640, was a Sultan of
this kind and tobacco was among the particular objects of his tyranny.
Since Mohammed died nearly a thousand years before the European
discovery of America, the Koran is as silent as the Bible on tobacco. Like
the Bible, it does cry out against alcohol: "Intoxicants and gambling...
are an abomination - of Satan's handiwork: eschew such abominations that
ye may prosper" . But there have always been doubts whether these
prohibitions extend to tobacco. As with Christianity, Islam has been
heavily influenced in its philosophic theology by Aristotelianism; and no
one who has read Aquinas will find the works of A1-Ghazali or his
followers at all strange in their fundamentals. But no conception of the
natural and unnatural has ever been made that would allow a consistent
attack on smoking or any other use of tobacco. The most devout Moslems
certainly condemn it, as they condemn all pleasures that are not
immediately joined with the contemplation of God. But, such extremes of
devotion, while always respected, have never been more common in Islam
than in other religions. The general opinion today throughout the Islamic
world is that the use of tobacco is neither un-Koranic nor unnatural. Even
the Saudi Wahabbites, the strictest sect of Islam, no longer regard
smoking as a criminal offence.
In the seventeenth century, when tobacco was still a novelty, opinion
was more evenly balanced. Yet, while the theologians tended to regard the
prohibition of wine as applying to all mood-altering substances, it was
hardly out of piety that the Sultan took against smoking. Contravening the
explicit Word of God, he was a furious drinker, and it was a complication
of gout brought on by alcoholism that eventually caused his death. He
probably hated tobacco for the same reasons as the puritans in Europe
hated it - because it gave others a pleasure that he did not know.
It is sometimes said that laws against smoking had been made during the
previous reigns, and that punishment for their breach involved the
offenders' having a pipe-stem thrust through his nose, and his parading
through the streets of Constantinople on a donkey. Murad, however, applied
himself to putting down smoking with a thoroughness and brutal severity
unique in history. As with Nero, his immediate excuse for persecution was
On the 7th of August, 1633, while the capital was celebrating the birth
of his son with general, and prudent, rejoicing, a firework landed on a
ship at anchor in the Golden Horn and set it afire. The flames spread to
the dock and then to the city. Before the fire was brought under control,
it had razed 20,000 wooden buildings. Since fire fighting was a government
enterprise, and the officials in charge of it had behaved with gross
incompetence, there was an outcry. Men would come together in the coffee
houses and complain to each other over a pipe of tobacco. Since,
suspicious even of his own spies, Murad was in the habit of going about
Constantinople in disguise to find out what was being said against him, he
was soon aware of this. He accordingly put out a decree, announcing that
the fire had been caused by the smokers, and ordering that all places
where smokers we known to gather should be demolished.
This decree was soon followed by another, prohibiting smoking on pain
of death. Adding the role of policeman, judge and executioner to that of
spy, he continued his secret visits. His pleasure was to accost a
suspected tobacco dealer and beg him to sell a small quantity, offering a
price incredible even compared with those obtaining on the black market.
If the dealer's caution was overcome and he produced a bag of tobacco,
Murad would behead him on the spot. His body would lie in the street, an
example of the imperial justice. Invariably, his estate would be
Wherever the Sultan went, the number of executions would rise. Even on
the battlefield, he would make a point of seeking out smokers, and
punishing them by beheading, hanging, cutting in quarters, or crushing
their extremities and leaving them helpless between the lines. No one
knows how many suffered from this disgraceful law, though, by the time of
his death, at the age of twenty nine, Murad had put to death well over
100,000 of his subjects - a quarter of them during his final five years.
This may seem a very small total to us, who are used to reckoning the
victims of tyranny in millions. But, for a man who lacked the gas chamber
and the machine gun - and whose whims never went to the full madness of
telling farmers how to grow food - 100,000 is a very respectable figure
for a reign of seventeen years.
For all his efforts at enforcement, though, Murad's laws were as
complete a failure as those in Europe later in the century. The Turks and
the subject peoples of the Empire continued to smoke. The laws were
repealed in 1648 by Mohammed IV - himself a smoker - and were not
Not every prohibition, however, was made on the grounds of religion. In
1609, the Japanese Shogun forbade the cultivation and use of tobacco for
any purpose. His stated intention was simply to keep the peace. In that
year, the Bramble and the Leather Breeches smoking clubs had been formed
in the old capital city of Kyoto. Their members - chiefly young nobles -
were to be recognised by the enormously long and heavy pipes that they had
either to wear strapped round their waists like swords, or have carried
behind them by retainers. Their chief delight was to go about, provoking
street brawls. After an outcry, the clubs were dissolved; and since, as
frequently happens, disapproval of what was pernicious was extended to
cover what was only accidentally connected with it, smoking was
While the clubs were suppressed, the prohibition as it applied to
tobacco was ignored. Either the authorities still failed to distinguish
smoking from disorder, or the public order was only an excuse for
attacking tobacco. For, in 1612, it was further decreed, that the property
of anyone taken in the act of selling tobacco should be given to his
accuser. In 1616, the penalties were made yet more severe. But was all to
no effect. Before long, the very princes who had made the laws were
breaking them. Tobacco was quietly absorbed into Japanese tradition; and a
pipe soon accompanied the cup of tea ceremonially offered to a guest in
polite society. The laws against it were all repealed in 1624. There was a
feeble brief effort to revive them after 1695. But this never amounted to
more than a petty vexation. The Japanese remain among the heaviest smokers
in the world, and their low incidence of lung cancer is a standing
embarrassment to the anti-smoking hysterics of our own day. 
Nor was the opposition in England primarily religious. As with rest of
the nation, tobacco was too popular among the clergy for there to be any
serious question of seeking its prohibition as ungodly. Opposition such as
there was came largely from one man. Exactly what it was about tobacco
that James I hated is unknown. Mackenzie suggests that the whole passion
was a cover for his violent hatred of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Probably,
he just disliked the thought of all that pleasure derived from it by
others. But, whatever his reason, it was his great misfortune that he
should have hated tobacco as bitterly as his contemporary fellow ruler,
Murad of Turkey. For he was quite unable to suppress it.
James I came down from Scotland, in 1603, believing that he had
inherited a position of unlimited power. However when it came to an attack
on tobacco, he had no better weapons at hand than a propaganda campaign
and what few fiscal and regulatory powers had not yet been removed from
his dwindling prerogative.
His first work of propaganda dates from within a few months of his
accession. Writing in Latin , he laments how England was fallen from
her old glory. Formerly, her sons had been brave in war and obedient in
peace to the authorities. Now, the clergy were grown lax, the nobility
sunk in idleness, and the people as a whole suffering a steep moral
decline. The only answer was a reform from above, which would begin by
abolishing the all corrupting weed. Since these arguments had no
observable effect, James made his next attempt in English.
Published anonymously in 1604 - it was only publicly acknowledged in
1616 - A Counterblaste to Tobacco repeats but also elaborates the earlier
pamphlet. Smoking is condemned as a new custom learned from barbarians.
Its medical benefits are denied. Rather, it is, in the strongest terms
alleged to be harmful: it is addictive; it "makes a kitchen ...
oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soiling and infecting them, with an
unctuous and oily Soote as hath bene found in some great Tobacco takers,
that after their death were opened".  Finally, comes the famous
peroration to the English people:
" "Have you not reason then to bee ashamed, and to forbeare this
filthie noveltie, so basely grounded, so foolishly received and so grossly
mistaken in the right use thereof? In your abuse thereof sinning against
God, harming yourselves in person and in goods, and taking also thereby
the markes and notes of vanitie upon you: by the custome thereof making
your selves to be wondered at by all forraine civil Nations, and by all
strangers that come among you to be scorned and contemned. A custome
lothsome to the eye, hateful to the Nose, harmefull to the braine,
dangerous to the Lungs, and the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest
resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless".
The cries of a few flatterers aside, the answer to this Royal question
was a firm "no". The English continued to smoke. And so the King tried
supplementing persuasion with force. By a Proclamation dated the l7th of
October, 1604, he raised the import duty payable on tobacco by exactly
four thousand percent - from 2d to 6-8d in the pound. But while this
looked a fierce increase, it had little more practical effect than the
pamphlets. The tax was evaded by smuggling and by home cultivation. Had
James been allowed his way in all else, he might have continued his fiscal
attack. As it was, however, he was compelled by circumstances to suspend
Tobacco Turns to Gold
After their first years of poverty, certain of the English settlers in
North America realised that there was money to be had from growing tobacco
for export. The first known shipment to England was made in 1613 but was
ill-received, the Nicotiana rustica that was native to Virginia being
decidedly inferior to the tabacum that was to be had from the Spanish
plantations. But, with the replacement of the poorer with the better
strain, the conquest of the English market rapidly began. In 1616,
Virginia sent 3,000 pounds to London, compared with 53,000 Spanish pounds.
In 1618, Virginia was sending 19,000 pounds.
In 1620, 55,000 pounds were imported . As the trade increased, the
colonists made both mercantile and political allies in England; and effort
was soon diverted from the suppression of all tobacco to the promotion of
Virginian tobacco at the expense of foreign.
At the same time, James continued in need of money. It was now
discovered how easy it was to tax imported tobacco, and what immense sums
could be raised from it. In 1608, he lowered the duty to one shilling,
entrusting its collection to one of his lovers. In 1615, he made the
import of tobacco a Royal monopoly - in open breach of the law as
decisively stated in 1602 - and farmed it out for a yearly rent of
£14,000. In 1619, he tightened the monopoly by prohibiting the cultivation
of tobacco around London. The following year, he extended the prohibition
to the whole of England, so starting a war that still continues, if with
abatements, between State and citizen over the right to grow the herb of
his choice in his own back garden.
If with greater moderation, Charles I shared his father's detestation
of tobacco and would allow none of his courtiers to use it in his
presence. But he was also too short of money to pick and choose its
source. He continued the monopoly and in 1633 added the licensing of
retailers. He and James both rallied against the allegedly addictive
nature of tobacco. Yet while in all succeeding reigns there have been
innumerable subjects able to forego its pleasures, no British Government
has ever found the will to do without the revenue raised from it.
During the eighteenth century not even the frequent wars with France
were suffered to disrupt the trade. From small beginnings, American
tobacco had long since acquired the predominance on the world market that
it still justly holds. The French conceived so passionate a fondness for
it that they quite neglected to develop their own plantations in Louisiana
and Martinique. The British Government feared that in the event of a
wartime embargo the French would, however reluctantly, shift the balance
of their purchases, so diminishing its revenue and inviting the
resentment of the wealthy and influential tobacco interest. The French
Government had no wish to compound its disastrous record in the wars with
England by depriving its subjects of their favourite tobacco. An agreement
was therefore reached that by special licence, the trade would continue in
time of war, the ships involved in it leaving from a named port in Great
Britain to a named port in France, carrying only tobacco and returning
empty.  It was in part the prospect of open access to Virginia that
had the French take the side of the rebelling American colonists. The
close naval blockade of France during the revolutionary and Napoleonic
wars, when desperate struggles the old agreements were not renewed,
pressed never so hard as in its limiting the availability of American
It was the realisation generally that tobacco could, in spite of all
doubts on other grounds, be made an everflowing fountain of money that
brought its early persecutions to a halt. During the seventeenth century,
the wealthier countries of Europe all to some extent suffered the
imposition of a centralised bureaucratic administration. This was at once
more expensive to run that the older, more local systems, and had to be
paid for in ready money rather than by direct levies of agricultural
produce. Whatever religious or other prejudices the various rulers might
have entertained against tobacco, none could deny its almost unique
capacity to bear the heaviest weight of taxation.
The various German prohibitions were scarcely shown to have failed
before they were removed and taxes imposed in their place. In Bohemia,
within three years of the complaint mentioned above, about the popular
disobedience of the laws against tobacco, the trade was made legal and
subject to tax. In 1669, the Elector of Bavaria, financially embarrassed,
called the Diet into session and agreed a tax on tobacco, in place of the
decree of 1652. In 1670 the Emperor was brought round to the creation of a
State monopoly. Soon after his accession, in 1689, Peter the Great of
Russia repealed all the prohibitions. He associated snuff taking and
smoking with the Western modernity he sought to emulate. In 1697, he sold
a monopoly of its importation and sale to an English stock company for a
down payment of £13,000.
Continued Opposition in England
While a dislike of tobacco lingered in this country even during the
eighteenth century, it was largely a subdued dislike, confined to the
outer fringes of English life. There were too many who enjoyed its use,
and there was too much money made from its supply, for its opponents to
stand the least chance of success. Moreover, the government had no
interest in adding to its moral responsibilities. Those tasks inherited
from previous centuries were discharged with a lack of zeal that would
shock most English men today. Those new ones forced on it were discharged
no better. Then, towards the end of the nineteenth century, there occurred
a fundamental change in English opinion. Our old love of freedom and
independence insensibly gave way to a reliance on the government for the
running of our lives. Those beliefs in laissez-faire and the rule of law
which once defined the word ' liberalism' gave way to that benevolent form
of National Socialism which is nowadays called Social Democracy. The hours
of labour were restricted, controls were placed on the preparation and
sale of food and drink. Education was made compulsory. The laws regarding
' indecent' literature and behaviour were tightened. All these measures
had as their aim the protection of individuals, either morally or
economically. In principle, the path was cleared for an attack on tobacco.
This was not long in coming.
The chief restrictionist campaign of the age was run by the temperance
movement. Alcohol was denounced with the most passionate conviction. The
anathemas sounded every Sunday from a thousand pulpits. Lectures toured
the country, dipping worms in glasses of beer, then taking them out to
show the effects of 'the devil's brew' on the human body. Songs were
composed and heartily sung (65). Little children were harassed into
signing pledges, the meaning of which they were too young to understand,
but which they were told were absolutely binding for life in the eyes of
God. Statistics were produced to prove what individual suffering and
national waste were caused by drink.
Associated with this, though, was a campaign against tobacco. I have
before me a pamphlet called Our Boys and Why They Should Not Smoke. It was
put out by an organisation called the British Anti-Tobacco and
Anti-Narcotic League. It bears no date, but its physical appearance place
it, in my opinion, somewhere between 1890 and the outbreak of the Great
War. Aimed at children and young people, it calls tobacco a filthy and
corrupting substance, damaging alike to health and pocket:
"Many a man smokes one or two hundred pounds worth of tobacco during
the best part of his life, after all, what has he got for it? A damaged
constitution, a horrible breath and a constant craving for another smoke".
Smoking, I read, corrupts morals. It leads to heavy drinking. It is
un-Christian. It causes fires. All the old claims are dusted down and
presented as fresh. To these are added the further claim, that it harms
the British Race - a fashionable concern at the time:
"Medical officers under the Factory Acts have pointed to the
increased use of tobacco as one of the sources of the physical
deterioration of our factory population ". (67)
The pamphlet ends with the fine exhortation:
"May those who read this paper resolve that they will seek to
realise the chief end of their being, which is to glorify God, and to love
and imitate the Saviour, and that they will have nothing to do with habits
so offensive and injurious as the smoking of Tobacco ". (68)
But it goes no further than exhortation. Despite the rapid expansions
of its powers, the British State remained powerless to restrict the
pleasures of its subjects. The temperance campaigners never achieved their
object, the prohibition of alcohol. In 1872, the Gladstone Government did
force a Licensing Bill through parliament, but only against fierce
opposition. "I would see England free" said the Bishop of Peterborough,
speaking in the Lords, "better than England Sober". (69)
There was rioting in some towns. The brewers deserted the Liberals en
masse to the Conservative Party. A subsequent strengthening of the Act -
the Licensing Bill of 1908 - was killed in the Lords, to wild public
jubilation. It had long before been sung:
"Damn his eyes, whoever tries to rob a poor man of his Beer!"
Now Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister, was threatened in the music
"If you try to tax the poor man's beer, I'll meet you one dark
The temperance movement did eventually get a most oppressive system of
licensing - a temporary measure during the Great W ar, that, like so many
others, remains to this day. But the anti-tobacco movement never obtained
even a partial legislative success. Only since the 1960s and now has
tobacco been significantly under threat in this country.
The American Anti-Tobacco Movement
It may seem strange, but the only serious persecution of modern times
took place in the United States. The Americans have a written constitution
and a Bill of Rights drafted by men whose over-riding aim was to prevent
the abuse of power. They also grow and export some of the finest tobacco
in the world. Yet their puritan minority has always been stronger than
ours, and better organised. It has repeatedly shown its capacity for
capturing office or pressurising politicians in this most democratic of
nations. During the second half of the last century, this minority
conceived a wild aversion, first to cigarettes and then to all tobacco.
Introduced in its modern form from abroad, the cigarette came late to
the United States. It rapidly established itself as the main form of
tobacco use, largely displacing both quid-chewing and the pipe. In 1865,
less than 20 million cigarettes were produced. By 1880, this figure had
risen to 500 million, and doubled every five years to 4 billion by 1895
The reason for this growth was that cigarettes were both cheap and
convenient. All the more did they give offence to the puritans. Their own
efforts entirely overshadowed those of their English brothers. First,
rumours were spread claiming that the papers were saturated with opium and
arsenic, that the tobacco was reused from old cigar butts picked off the
street, or that it was urinated on to give it flavour. Accusations of
effeminacy were made. "The cigarette is designed for boys and women" said
The New York Times in 1884.
"[T]he decadence of Spain began when the Spaniards adopted cigarettes,
and if this pernicious practice obtains among adult Americans, the ruin of
the Republic is at hand". (71)
Alternatively, it was claimed that boys were turning to cigarettes.
Parents Against Tobacco (PAT) are not the first to realise what may be
achieved by playing on the supposed threat to children posed by tobacco.
The country was swamped with lying or exaggerated propaganda on this
theme. Children would go colour blind, it was said, if they smoked
cigarettes. They would go bald. Their growth would be stunted. They would
go insane. They would be sterile. They would be impotent. They would
become sexually promiscuous. They would become moral degenerates. "Many
and many a bright lad" said Charles Hubbell, a New York school
commissioner in the 1890s.
"has had his will power weakened, his moral principle sapped, his
nervous system wrecked, and his whole life spoiled before he is seventeen
years old by the detested cigarette. The `cigarette fiend' in time becomes
a liar and a thief. He will commit petty thefts to get money to feed his
insatiable appetite for nicotine. He lies to his parents, his teachers,
and his best friends. He neglects his studies and, narcotized by nicotine,
sits at his desk half stupefied, his desire for work, his ambition, dulled
if not dead ". (72)
By 1901, Louisiana and Wyoming were the only States left in the Union
not to have passed laws restricting the sale and public consumption of
cigarettes. In some States, both were prohibited. In the Indiana
legislature, a bill was introduced that, if passed, would have subjected
public smokers to imprisonment and a fine, together with disfranchisement
and incapacity to hold any office of trust or profit. In Chicago, a
special clinic was opened, for the "cure" of smokers; and hundreds of the
repentant guilty queued to have their palates painted with silver nitrate
solution. When a touring opera company visited Kansas, it shifted the
first act of Carmen from outside a cigarette factory to outside a dairy.
The anti-smokers were so confident, so contemptuous of the basic rules
according to which a free society must operate, that, when the Supreme
Court of Illinois struck down a State law against the sale of cigarettes,
they actually began a campaign to abolish the independence of the
But the American anti-smokers failed. They never obtained a federal
prohibition without which it was almost impossible to enforce the State
laws. Nothing could prevent the growth of a large mail order business to
grow and flourish. In some States, the laws were so loosely drafted that
they were repealed by human ingenuity: matches were sold at 10 cents the
box, with a packet of cigarettes given free. While the number produced
fell at first - as low as two billion in 1901- it soon returned to its
spectacular climb, reaching nearly eight billion by 1910 (73). Moreover,
once the early claims about the effects of smoking on health had been
tested and falsified, the laws were, one after the other repealed. Even
where not repealed, they fell largely into disuse. By the American entry
into the Great War in 1917, it was considered almost natural that the
troops sent to France should be assigned their daily packet of cigarettes.
By 1928, the number of cigarettes produced in the United States reached
100 billion (74).
But what really turned the puritan attack in America was the success of
the campaign against Alcohol. Unlike in England, the Temperance Movement
in America secured a complete victory. As early as 1851, the State of
Maine had made the sale of alcoholic drinks illegal except for medical
reasons. At last, in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution
was ratified, allowing a Federal prohibition. "The reign of tears is over"
said the popular evangelist, Billy Sunday on the passage in 1920 of the
Volstead Act that imposed Prohibition. "The slums will soon only be a
memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into
storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile,
and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent" (75).
For a while it was supposed that, if drink could be made illegal, it
might be just as possible to secure a Nineteenth Amendment against the
other great enemy of the pleasure-hating bigots of America. "Prohibition
is won, now for tobacco" said Billy Sunday (76). But Prohibition was
unenforceable. Too many people had too strong a taste for drink ever to be
kept away from it. Smuggling and illegal home production both rose
spectacularly, and every effort to prevent them was a failure. Within ten
years, more than half a million Americans had been arrested for some
violation of the anti-alcohol laws. Another 35,000 had died from alcoholic
poisoning (77). The laws were repealed in 1933, having proved the most
disastrous attempt at social engineering in American history. But, for
thirteen years, criminals had been allowed to take over the running of a
great and profitable industry. The effects on the organisation of crime
and on public honesty have never been reversed. Having partly learned the
lesson, the reformers left tobacco alone for the next forty years.
PART V: THE MODERN PROSPECT
By 1930 tobacco seemed to at least one well-informed observer to have
finally triumphed. Declared Count Corti:
"[A glance at the statistics proves convincingly that the
[non-smokers] are but a feeble and ever-dwindling minority. (78) The
hopeless nature of their struggle becomes plain when we remember that all
countries, whatever their form of government, now encourage and facilitate
the passion for smoking in every conceivable way, merely for the sake of
the revenue which it produces....
In European countries, no serious attempt to prohibit smoking has been
made in recent times. Though it is possible to enforce the drink laws in
the United States by means of a gigantic organisation, any proposal to
deal in the same way with smoking would call forth such a storm of
disapproval as would instantly sweep any government out of office that
attempted it, and the same may be confidently affirmed of every country in
the world. If we consider how in the past the efforts of the most absolute
despots the world has ever seen were powerless to stop the spread of
smoking we may rest assured that any such attempts to day, when the habit
has down to such gigantic dimensions, can result only in a miserable
Evidently, Corti had anticipated neither the hostility of the National
Socialists nor the medical claims of the next sixty years. So far from a
dwindling minority, the non-smokers are now a growing majority of at least
the British and American populations. Yet, tempting as it might be to
dismiss his conclusion as disproved by later events, Corti's main
contention, that smoking and the other main uses of tobacco are too
securely entrenched to be easily dislodged, is probably as good today as
when it was made. It may be, as the anti-smokers implicitly assume, that
users of tobacco are made rather than born; and that, given continued
hectoring, the number can be reduced eventually to zero. More likely, if I
draw the right lesson from history, many or most of them are drawn to it
by some requirement of their nature. Neither the threat of Hell-fire, made
by the American Church, nor the threat of earthly torments, made and even
carried out by Murad IV, could entirely hold tobacco and its users apart.
Nor would the more sanitised, though better-policed, persecutions desired
by ASH will have any greater success.
For all these considerations, it remains true after three centuries
that the surest protection of tobacco is not even the propensity of the
governed to resist, but the insatiable need of the governors for money.
During the fiscal year 1987-8, the British Government raised £5, 775
million in excise duty and value added tax from the sale of tobacco
products (80). This gigantic sum is equivalent to half the hospital bill
to the National Health Service. It is also greater than the national
income of most black African countries. To suppose that, without a
reduction of its spending that would be unique in living memory, any
likely government would do without this source of revenue is far-fetched.
"There is no stopping us" says David Simpson.
We shall see.
1. The Daily Telegraph, 20 September, 1989.
2. In 1970, it was stated to Parliament that "there is no evidence
whatsoever to indicate that snuff-taking is harmful"
(Hansard, 15 December, 1970). This opinion has been repeatedly endorsed by Dr
M.A.H. Russell, an expert whose writings against smoking are frequently
published in the Guardian (for a detailing of his more extravagant and
absurd claims, see my The Right to Smoke: A Christian View, FOREST,
London, 1989). For his evidence regarding snuff, see: The Lancet, 1 March,
1980: The British Medical Journal, 26 September, 1981; The Lancet, l4
December 1985). So far as I know, no one has even hinted that there might
be any danger from passive snuff-taking. In 1978, accepting the evidence,
and hoping to shift consumption from a tobacco product considered
dangerous to one as yet found perfectly safe, the Government exempted snuff
from excise duty. The resulting difference in price is worth bearing in
mind. My smoking friends lay out an average of £ 10 per week on
cigarettes. £5 has bought me enough snuff to last the rest of the century.
In passing, I might add that there are dangerous brands of snuff. The
Bavarians have, or had, one called Schmaltzer, having a base of Brazilian
tobacco flour, to which lime and lard and powdered glass are added.
Clearly, though, the danger here is not in the tobacco.
3. As it happens, there is no good evidence that there is any risk from
"passive smoking". It is forever being claimed that such evidence has been
found, and sceptics are referred to the Fourth Report of the Independent
Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health, the Froggatt Report, a 68 page
document published by the Government in the March of 1988. This Report
does, indeed, support the claim, that a non-smoking spouse of a smoker
runs somewhere between a 10% and 30% greater risk of contracting lung
cancer than the non-smoking spouse of a non-smoker. But, if we look to
this support, rather than what is most often piled on it, we see that the
risk of lung cancer is estimated to rise from 10:100,000 to 11 or 12 or
13:100,000. In the first place, no one with the slightest common sense
could panic at a risk so trivial. In the second, a statistical variation
so wide may be taken as pretty meaningless. For a blistering critique of
the Report see T. E. Utley, "Morality Overcome by Fumes", The Times, 29
4. Maurice Weaver, "Stubbing Out the Habit", The Daily Telegraph, 20
5. While quoting from statements made on television, I might as well
add the words of Ms Joyce Epstein, the Assistant Director of Action on
Smoking and Health. Asked on the BBC programme, "Over to You", on the
l2th of August, 1989, whether cigarettes should be banned completely, she
answered that there was "no right to smoke". This is, of course,
ambiguous. She might have been saying, that we have no right to do what
she considers bad for us. Alternatively, she might have been giving voice
to the dreadful - and perfectly un-English - notion, that whatever is not
specifically allowed by the law is forbidden. Another officer of ASH also
gave the game away in 1988. Dr. Denis Hilton, the Chairman of its Solent
Branch, publicly called for the closure of the tobacco industry. See
Portsmouth News, 16 September, 1988.
6. Time Out, 15-22 August 1990.
7. The Daily Telegraph, 14 November, 1989. It may be of interest that
strong cigarettes will remain on sale in Greece until 2006.
9. Among the imagined - or, at least, the unproven - dangers of
tobacco, consider the following: In the Hamburger Frendenblatt (22
March, 1944), an article was published by one G. Wenzmet. Called " Should
Women be Allowed to Smoke?", its argument was that smoking damaged the
ovaries. It was stated that marriages between heavy smokers produced an
average of .66 children, while marriages between non-smokers produced an
average of 3 children. Cited in Richard Grunberger, A Social History of
the Third Relch, Weidenfield and NicoLson, London, 1971, p. 264.
10. See Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis,
Harvard University Press, 1988, p. 248.
11. Ibid. P· 240.
12. Quoted in Heather Ashton and Rob Stepney, Smoking: Psychology and
Pharmacology, Tavistock Publications, London, 1983, p. 144.
13. Take, for example, Gloucestershire County Council, which has given
its employees two years in which to give up smoking. Failure to give up
will bring dismissal (DailyTelegraph, 6 0ctober). Take also one of the
sections in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. In the
January of 1990, a ban was imposed on smoking, on the understanding that
separate facilities would be provided for smokers. By the following
August, no such facilities had yet been provided The Lord Chancellors
Department as a whole is currently going through an openly farcical
process of "consultation" preparatory to imposing a general ban.
14. It was actually the 2lst of October, the true l2th having fallen
the Wednesday but one previously. All European dates before the calendar
reform of 1582 are still given in the Old Style, which, by the end of the
fifteenth century, had lost nine days since 325 AD. This is a trivial
point; but, as it will doubtless be argued over ad nauseam in the
correspondence page of The Times in 1992, I might as well make it here in
advance of everyone else.
15. Numbers, 16:46-50.
16. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historiae, Bk. XII, cap. xxxii.
17. Some oracles were staffed by means purely coercive. See, for
example, Trimalchio's reminiscence: "Oh, with my own eyes, I've seen the
Sybil at Cumae hanging in her cage. And when the boys used to ask her
'Sybil, what do you want', she would answer 'I want to die'" (Cena
Trimalchlonic, cap. 48).
18. Pliny, op. cit., XXXVIII, liii.
19. Ibid lxiii.
20. Ibid, lxvii "[in casu phthisiscis]fimi...aridi sed pebulo uiridi
pesto boue fumum harundine haustum prodesse tradunt". Later in his work
(XXIX, v), Pliny alludes without evident irony to the popular funerary
inscription "turbe periui medicaum" (I was finished off by the doctors).
21. Herodotus, The Histories, translated by Aubrey de Selincourt
(revised, A.R Bum), Penguin Books, London, 1972, p. 295 (in the original -
22. One Huron legend, for example, tells how, long before the coming of
the white man, there was a great famine over the land. All the tribes csme
together in e council and called on the Great Spirit Manitou for help. In
answer, a beautiful and naked girl descended from the clouds. Leaning on
her palms, she sat on the ground before the people, and announced that she
was sent to bring food. This said, she returned into the sky. Where her
right palm had been, corn sprouted. and where her left had been, potatoes.
But from where she had sat tobacco appeared (see W. Koskowski, The Habit of
Tobaoco Smoking, Staples Press, London. 1955, pp. 39-40). Much as this may
appeal to the imagination, it is probably not true.
23. The earliest extant account of smoking is given by Romano Pane, the
Papal missionary, in his De Insularium Ritibus of 1497.
24. This is given in L'Agriculture et la Maison Rustique of that year
by the brothers Liebauh. For a few centuries, it went among some medical
writers under the name of petum, which appears to have been derived from
an ancient Brazilian word for the plant. The etymology of the vulgar names
of tobacco, tabac, taboc etc., is rather less easily settled. It might
derive from the place names of Tobasco or Tobago; or from Toboca, the name
of the Y-shaped pipe through which some of the Indians smoked. Other
explanations have, from time to time, been suggested But, rather than go
though these it seems fairer to say that no one knows the origin.
25. As a man who has taken six months to get through half an ounce, I
find this rate of consumption almost incredible. Yet I read that Napoleon
took eight pounds a month, and that Frederick the Great, scorning
snuffboxes except as ornaments, would daily fill one of his pockets with
26. Paul Hentzner, Itinerarfum, Nuremberg, 1612, quoted in Compton
Mackenzie, SubHmc Tobacco, Chatto and Windus, London, 1957. p. 88.
27. Koskowski, op. cit., p. 35.
28. Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 345. Novelist, essayist, poet, playwright,
as well as classical liberal, the author's life (1883-1972) almost exactly
spanned the great socialist interruption. But he found consolation in
tobacco. He smoked his first cigarette in 1887 and his first whole cigar
in 1891; and his rough estimate was that, by the 29th of August, 1956, he
had smoked 200,000 pipes of tobacco (ibid).
29. Quoted, Count Egon Corti, A History of Smoking (translated from the
German by Paul England), George G. Harrap, Londai, 1931, p. 257.
30. Ibid, p. 254-5.
31. Oscar Wilde, The Picture ot Dorian Gray, New American Library, New
York, 1962, p. 93.
32. Florence King, "I'd Rather Smoke Than Kiss", National Review (USA),
9 July, 1990.
33. Iliad, xii, 322-328.
34. Quoted, Corti, op. cit., p.103.
35. Ibid, p. 99.
36. David Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II, Oxford University
Press (2nd edition.1956), Volume One, p. 292.
37. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (eds, Robert Latham and William
Matthews), Bell and Hyman Limited, London, 1972, Volume VI, p.120. The
double hyphen is editorial, to indicate Pepys' own use of hyphenation.
38. Ibid, footnote 2.
39. Quoted, Mackenzie, op. cit., pp 157-8.
40. W. Hale-White, Textbook of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Pentland
Young, Edinburgh. Cited in Ben Whittaker, The Global Fix: Thc Crisis of
Drug Addiction, Methuen, London, 1988, p. 146.
41. See, for example, David Loshak, "A Whiff of Consolation for the
Smoker", The Daily Telegraph, 30 October, 1981; or the Late T.E. Utley,
"Lighting up for Liberty", in The Times, 3 August, 1987.
42. See, for example, Cornelia H. Dam: "[T]he act of smoking, even on
ordinary occasions, [was] a pledge of mutual confidence among the Indians
as taking salt together is among the Arabs, and the pledge of the peace
pipe was seldom broken by individuals or tribes until the white man came
to teach the Indian the material advantages of perfidy", Tobacco Among the
Indians", The American Mercury, Vol. XVI, No. 61, January 1929, p. 76.
43. Joseph Addisai, Richard Steele et al., The Spectator, No. 568,
Friday, July 16, 1714, "Everyman" Edition, London", 1966, Volume Four. p.
44. Thomas Babbington Macaulay, History of England from the Accession
of James II, ("Everyman" Edition), J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd London. 1910,
Vol.1, p.285 (Chapter III).
45. "Quoy qu'en dise Aristote, et sa digne Cabale,
Le Tabac est
divin. il n'est rien qui l'egal ..."
Lines from his Le Festin de Pierre
of 1677, a versification of Moliere's Don Juan. See Corti, op. cit., p. 179
and illustration facing p.188.
46. See supra, footnote 21.
47. Koskowski, op. cit., p. 70.
48. Ibid In Support of this last, Koskowski cites B. Laufer, W.D.
Hambly and R. Linton, Tobacco and its Use in Africa, Chicago, 1930.
49. See my pamphlet, The Right to Smoke: A Christian Vlew, FOREST,
50. For the regret of a priest who was unable to distinguish, see a
letter home of 1550 from one father Nobrega: "All the food is difficult to
digest, but God has remedied this with a plant, the smoke of which is in
much aid of digestion and for other bodily ills and to drive out moisture
from the stomach. No one of our brothers uses it, nor does any other of
the Christians, in order not to imitate the unbelievers who like it very
much. I need it because of the dampness and my cateerh, but I abstain -
not what is useful for myself [do I want] but what is good for many that
they might be saved". Quoted in Sherwin J. Feindhandler, "'The Social Role
of Smoking", in Robert D. Tollinson (ed), Smoking and Society: Towards a
More Balanced Assessment, D.C. Heath, Lexington, Mass., 1986. p.170.
51. Issued, 27th of October, 1589. Quoted in Corti, op. cit., p.107.
52. From his Dic Tnickene Trunkenheit (Drunk without Drinking),
Nuremberg, 1658, quoted in Corti, op. cit., p.119.
53. Ibid, p. 115. quoting from H. Piltz, Uber den Tabak und das
Rauchen. Leipzig, 1899, p.148
54. Ibid, p.110.
55. Ibid, p.116.
56. Mark, 6:15.
57. The Koran, Sura, V, verse 93.
58. On this point, see HJ. Eysenck, "Smoking and Health", in Tollinson,
op. cit., pp 32-7.< >
59. Mackenzie, op. cit.. p.102.
60. Misocapnus Sive de Abusu Tobacci Lusus Regius (Smoke-Hatred, or a
Kingly Sport on the Use of Tobacco), London, 1603. I have never seen a copy
of this pamphlet, but am following the summary given by Corti. op. cit.,
61. A Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604), reprinted by the Rodale Press,
London, 1954, p. 32. It was, at this time, frequently stated that the
insides of smokers were coated with soot. See, for example, an entry in
the Calender of State Papers dated the 29th of December, 1601:
Jarkson, who frequented Little Britain street, has died suddenly, and
being opened, it was judged by the surgeons that it was from the smoke of
tobacco which he took insatiably"
. Quoted in "Tobacco Bothered and the
Pipes Shattered: A Note on the fate of the first British Campaign Against
Tobacco Industries, British Journal of Addiction, (1986) 81, 553-558
62. Ibid, p. 36.
63. Official English Tobacco Imports
(does not include smuggled tobacco)
Year Spanish ImportsColonial Imports
(in 0, 000 of lbs) (in 0, 000 of lbs)
1602 25 -
1610 50 -
1616 53 3
1620 - 55
1621 120-150 -
1622 - 62
1623 67 135
1624 63 203
1628 50 -
1629 - 1500
1637 61 1476
Figures from Joel Best "Economic Interests and the Vindication of
Deviance: Tobacco in l7th Century Europe", in Maureen E. Hellcher et al
(eds) Drugs and Socfety: A Critical Reader, Kendall/Hunt Publishing,
Dunkirque, Iowa, 1983, p.178.
64. Mackenzie, op. cit., pp 213-4, gives an example; dated the 3rd of
June, 1756, of the form of licence issued:
"Upon application made to His
Majesty in Council, a Pass hath been ordered to be forthwith issued under
the Great Seal for the following ship to export Tobacco to France, in like
manner as was done during the last war with France. The Marion of Glasgow,
British Built, Burthen one hundred and fifty tons or thereabouts, carrying
Twelve men, Alexander Morrison, Master, Laden with two hundred hogsheads
of Tobacco, to sail from Glasgow to Bourdeaux in France.
I am ordered to
acquaint you with this information of the Commissioners of His Majesty's
Customs, that the necessary directions may be given to the proper officers
at the Port of Glasgow from whence the ship is to sail".
65. Some of them are rather good in a gloomy sort of way. Take for
"We were so happy till father drunk rum then all our
trouble and sorrow begun; mother grew paler and wept every day. Baby and I
were too hungry to play. Slowly they faded, and one summer's night, found
their dear faces all silent and white; then with big tears slowly
dropping, I said 'father's a drunkard and mother is dead'".
by "Stella" were set by a Mrs. E. A. Parkhurst to a wonderfully lachrymose
tune; and the piece became one of the most unfailingly popular of the
66. J. Forbes Moncrief, Our Boys and Why They Should Not Smoke, British
Anti-Tobacco and Anti-Narcotic League, Manchester, nd, p.5.
67. Ibld. p.9.
68. Ibid, p.16.
69. Quoted in R. C. K. Ensor, England 1870-1914, Oxford University
Press, 1936. P21< >
70. Gordon L. Dillow, The Hundred-Year War Against the Cigarette,
reprinted from the February/March 1981 issue of American Heritage by The
Tobacco Institute, Washington D.C., nd p. 6.
71. Ibid, p. 7.
73. Ibid, p.12.
74. Ibid, p.14. Compare this, however, with the 695 billion produced in
1978, p. 6. Many of these were for export rather than home consumption.
But the sheer inconceivable number stands as tribute to the productive
power of the American economy.
75. Quoted by Milton Friedman. An Economist's Protest: Columns in
Political Economy, Thomas Horton, New Jersey, 1972, p.160.
76. Quoted Dillow, op. cit., p.13.
77. Whittaker, op. cit., p.137.
78. He gives the following table - which I abbreviate - for average
numbers per head of population:
Pre-1914 1927 Pre-1914 1927
Germany 119 103 195 502
England 124 201 811
France 16 10 96 248
Holland - 157 - 341
Italy34 39 104 372
Sweden 38 33 115 233
USA 90 62 143 840
79. Ibid, pp 265-7.
80. Written answer, Hansard, 19 December, 1988, p. 28.
Sean Gabb is a graduate in History from the University of York. Currently a freelance joumalist, he is also working on his Phd. He has contributed to a number of journals in Britain and the USA, including The Salisbury Review, Free Life, The Freeman, and Free Nation. He is the author of four pemphlets, What To Do About Aids, The Opium Wars: Some Lessons For Europe, Anglo-German Relations in the Twentieth Century: An Isolationist View, and, for FOREST, The Right To Smoke: A Christian View. He recently submitted evidence to the Calcutt Committee on the press which will also be published in the near future.