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Title: A Dissertation on the Medical Properties and Injurious Effects of the Habitual Use of Tobacco
Author: McAllister, A. (Alvan)
Language: English
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Improved and enlarged, with an Introductory Preface,

_Asso. Prof. of Sac. Lit. in Andover Inst._

       *       *       *       *       *



JANUARY 5, 1830.


Second Edition.
Improved and enlarged, with an Introductory Preface,

_Associate Professor of Sac. Lit. in the Theol. Inst. at Andover._

No. 9. Cornhill.

Clinton Hall.


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1832, by PEIRCE &
PARKER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

No. 9, Cornhill.


The first edition of Dr. McAllister's Essay, was printed without any
Appendix. Having myself been in the habit of using tobacco very
moderately (usually but once in a day) from early life, I read the Essay
as first printed with great interest. It appeared to me a sober,
judicious, rational appeal to the understanding and judgment of the
public, with respect to the subject of which it treats. A highly
respected friend of mine desired me to give him my opinion of the Essay
in writing. I consented to do this; and when I had done it, he judged it
expedient to publish that opinion; to which I gave my consent. It was
published in the _Journal of Humanity_; and for substance it was made up
of an abridgement of Dr. McAllister's views, and some strictures on his
style and method of treating the subject. In particular, a desire was
expressed that Dr. McA. would discuss more fully some of the arguments
employed in defence of using tobacco. This critique was sent to the
author of the Essay; who in consequence of it expressed a willingness to
revise his work, and make such additions as had been suggested. Some
weeks since he transmitted to me a copy of the original edition, with a
manuscript containing the Appendix to the present edition. At the same
time he requested me to make any alterations in either part, which I
might deem expedient. I have used this liberty so far as to change a few
_technical_ words for popular and intelligible ones. In some of these
cases, I have detracted from the _specific_ accuracy of the writer, as a
medical man, for the sake of making his expressions more intelligible to
the mass of readers. What he will thus lose, in his reputation for
scientifical accuracy, he will gain by becoming more useful. A few other
slight alterations and modifications have been made; but only such as I
judged the worthy author would at once cheerfully admit. I have kept
within the bounds of the liberty which he gave me; and I trust he will
not be dissatisfied with what I have done.

I command the serious perusal of the following Essay and Appendix to
every man, who wishes to become well informed respecting the properties
of tobacco. Whoever uses this substance as a luxury, is bound by a due
regard to his own physical welfare to make himself acquainted with its
properties and their influence. If any man can soberly peruse the
following pages, without conviction that he is "playing with
edge-tools," while he is indulging in the use of tobacco, I must confess
his mind to be of a composition different from mine.

One word as to _breaking off the habit_. The difficulty, I fully
believe, is not much less than the breaking off from ardent spirits. But
as to any danger to health in breaking off, the fear is idle; excepting
in case of delicate habits, where small changes produce great effects;
or in case of advanced years and inveterate habit, where the course of
those fluids which are so much affected by tobacco, if suddenly and
entirely changed, may give rise to serious inconvenience. My belief,
however, is, _that there no case in which a judicious and proper course
may not effect an entire weaning from the use of tobacco_. Most persons
in good health, and all in younger life, may break off at once, without
the least danger. Two or three days will overcome all difficulty. Those
whom slight changes in regimen affect very much, may break off more
gradually; and so of persons advanced in life. A good way of
accomplishing this, is to procure some of the most detestable tobacco
which can be found, and when appetite will not forego the use of it
without an evil greater than to use it, then take it in such a quantity
as will be sure to nauseate and prostrate. This will put the next dose
farther off; and two or three doses thus administered, will so blunt the
appetite, that quitting the practice will appear to be quite a moderate
degree of self-denial. Those who never felt the appetite may laugh at
such directions as these; but those who know its power, will at least
think them worth some consideration.

I do not place the use of tobacco in the same scale with that of ardent
spirits. It does not make men maniacs and demons. But that it does
undermine the health of thousands; that it creates a nervous
irritability, and thus operates on the temper and moral character of
men; that it often creates a thirst for spirituous liquors; that it
allures to clubs, and grog-shops, and taverns, and thus helps to make
idlers and spendthrifts; and finally, that it is a very serious and
needless expense; are things which cannot be denied by any observing and
considerate person. And if all this be true, how can the habitual use of
tobacco, as a mere luxury, be defended by anyone who wishes well to his
fellow-men, or has a proper regard to his own usefulness?

I have been in the use of it for thirty-five years; but I confess myself
unable, on any ground, to defend or to excuse the practice. The wants
which are altogether artificial, are such as duty calls us to avoid. The
indulgence of them can in no way promote our good or our real comfort.

I commend, therefore, the following sheets to the public: hoping that
all, and especially the young, will read and well consider the
suggestions they offer.

  Andover, Jan. 10, 1832.



We have accidentally seen the manuscript copy of an address pronounced
lately before your society, by Dr. McAllister. The research on which it
is founded, and its perspicuity and arrangement, entitle it to a form
more permanent than manuscript. But if the results are true, which it
attempts to substantiate, they present imperious considerations for the
publication of the address.

We are not disposed to contract the circle of enjoyment; but if mischief
crouches under the covert of any pleasure, propriety requires a
notification to the unwary. Even should experience warrant the
conclusion that habit enables us to use tobacco with physical impunity,
(a conclusion Dr. McAllister powerfully controverts,) we must concede,
that its use is disgusting to persons not infected with the habit.

Civilization is composed of innumerable acts of self-denial; while the
gratification of appetites, regardless of others, is the strongest
feature of barbarism. We see then, even as a dictate of refinement, that
the use of tobacco should be abandoned; and it has been abandoned by all
the polite circles of Europe.

But tobacco possesses that strong characteristic of a bad habit; it
seldom leaves its votaries the liberty of abandonment. All which the
address can effect, is an admonition to youth, over whom tobacco has not
yet acquired its bad supremacy. As parents, then, anxious to see our
children uncontaminated by disgustful practices; as citizens, emulous
that our country shall not be surpassed in refinement by the nations of
Europe, we are solicitous that the address of Dr. McAllister should be
published, and in a pamphlet form, under the authority of your society.

We are aware that this request involves a departure from your general
disposition of the periodical addresses of your members, but we beg to
suggest that the general interest of the present production renders a
departure from your usual course not invidious, but a duty which we
humbly think you owe to philanthropy. In support of our opinion, we take
the liberty of enclosing you a letter from a distinguished
fellow-citizen in Albany, who also accidentally saw the address: and we
are, Gentlemen,

  With very great respect, your ob't serv'ts,

    A. B. JOHNSON,
    D. C. LANSING,
    R. R. LANSING,

  UTICA, Feb. 27, 1830.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lydius Street, Albany,              }
Friday Evening, January 22d, 1830.  }


I have just completed an attentive perusal of the manuscript _discourse
on tobacco_, which you handed to me this afternoon; and I really feel
obliged to the author for the interest and instruction which it has
afforded me. I am sincerely of opinion that the respectable society
before whom it was delivered, owe it to themselves, to the public, and
to the author, (if they have not already done so,) to request its
publication. And, favorably as it leads me to think of the author's
intellectual and professional endowments, he must be still more
distinguished for his _modesty_, if he declines a compliance with such a
request. He has treated a highly important subject, in a clear,
forcible, and striking manner; and the public are deeply concerned in
knowing what he has said of it. I will only add, that in point of
literary execution, it is, in my judgment, most decidedly respectable,
and would in that respect reflect no discredit upon any medical
gentleman in this state.

  Very respectfully and truly yours, &c. &c.


  R. R. Lansing, Esq.

       *       *       *       *       *

    At a meeting of the Medical Society of the County of Oneida, on the
    5th of March, 1830, a communication was received, signed by a number
    of highly respectable gentlemen from this and other counties of this
    state, on the subject of a dissertation delivered before this
    society, at their late semi-annual meeting, by Dr. McAllister, "on
    the properties and effects of tobacco." The communication was
    referred to a committee.

The committee reported, "That although dissertations so delivered became
the properly of the society, yet believing as we do, that the subject is
one of great importance, and the dissertation highly meritorious, and as
we have not funds to defray the expense of publication, we will
cheerfully relinquish our claim thereto in favor of our correspondents,
and cordially unite with them in the desire which they have expressed to
us, 'that the dissertation be published in a pamphlet form,' for their
gratification and the benefit of the public."

Resolved, That the above report be accepted, and that a copy of the
proceedings be delivered to the gentlemen who presented the

  C. B. COVENTRY, Sec'y pro. tem.


In consenting to the publication of the following pages, the author
yielded to the request of gentlemen whose opinions he did not feel at
liberty to disregard; he therefore hopes to avoid the imputation of
vanity, with which he might have been charged, had he obtruded himself
on the attention of the public, unsolicited. That the habitual use of
tobacco is a wide spread, and spreading evil, will be acknowledged by
all. This has been felt for years by the most enlightened members of the
Faculty. That it causes many diseases, particularly visceral
obstructions, and renders many others exceedingly difficult to cure, is
demonstrated in the daily experience of every practitioner. The
conviction that this habit was constantly extending by the advice and
example of physicians, first induced the author to undertake the
discussion of this subject before the respectable Society to which he
has the honor to belong. Whether the attempt has been successful, the
public will judge. That it is imperfect, will not be denied; but it is
believed to have claims as a candid statement of facts.

To literary distinction the author makes no pretentions; he therefore
craves the indulgence of the learned, as they can best appreciate the
labor of writing well. He has chosen a free, popular style, believing
that the best calculated to do good; and to render it still more
familiar, at the suggestion of some friends, the technical terms have
been mostly expunged. Aware that affectation consists no less in
studiously avoiding, than in unnecessarily using technical language, the
author submitted to this, in the hope of being better understood by
persons out of the Profession. His medical brethren will, therefore,
know how to excuse him, for attempting to make this essay more plain,
though it should be at the expense of technical accuracy.

Should the prevalence of the practice, be a fair index to public
sentiment, the author is aware that he wars against a fearful odds. But
many who use this noxious weed, without hesitation acknowledge its
deleterious effects, and urge in extenuation the inveteracy of habit.

One consideration had considerable influence to induce the author to
consent to the publication of this paper--the hope that it might aid in
putting away the evil of intemperance, by pointing out one grand source
of that desolating scourge. When public attention shall be fully
awakened to this subject, innumerable instances will be found, where
drunkenness has followed as the legitimate consequence of using tobacco.

Should that hope be fulfilled--should it be found that the labor of the
author has exerted any salutary influence, in restraining young men from
falling into those habits which are inevitably followed by much physical
suffering, if not by absolute ruin, such a result would be to him an
ample compensation.

UTICA, MAY, 1830.



The confidence of an enlightened community has assigned to you, as
guardians of the dearest interests of society, an elevated and highly
responsible rank among those who labor to promote the great cause of
human happiness. Your influence in the medical councils of this great
and flourishing State, gives a lasting effect to your deliberations, and
stamps a value on those productions which you are pleased to approve.
While the opinions of other men are often exhibited and forgotten with
the occasion which gave them birth, those of the physician continue not
unfrequently to affect at least the physical welfare of the world, after
his "dust has returned to the earth as it was, and his spirit has gone
to God who gave it." In view of this momentous truth, an humble attempt
will now be made, in discharge of the duty assigned me, to examine the
cause of some of the "ills which flesh is heir to."

I regard this principle as an axiom, that whatever conduces to augment
the sum of human happiness, must be an object of solicitude to the
conscientious and intelligent physician. He will be anxious that his
fellow citizens should be sober, peaceable, and virtuous; that they
should be industrious, frugal, and prosperous. Whatever will produce
such results should receive the decided approbation of every benevolent
member of the Faculty. It follows, of course, that whatever has an
opposite tendency should meet his frown. Pursuing this principle, you
have condemned the use of ardent spirits, unless sickness demands their
application as a medicine.

The physical evils resulting from intemperance were eloquently exhibited
in the address, presented by your committee, during the last year. That
address, with its accompanying resolutions, now exerts a beneficial
influence through a widely extended community. We are cheered by the
kind wishes and prayers of the friends of good order, in our efforts to
destroy that vice which has not only "walked" through our country "in
darkness," but "wasted at noon-day." But while we exult in the triumph
of correct principles on _this_ subject, do not other vicious
indulgences demand our attention? Should we slumber over the mischiefs
resulting from such indulgences, while the public look to us as pioneers
who should trace out the pathway to health and happiness, and demand
from us both precepts and examples of sobriety and virtue?
Unfortunately, in all our attempts to abolish practices prejudicial to
the best interests of man, we are compelled, in the outset, to encounter
our own inveterate habits--habits which rise up in mutiny against
reformation, and with clamorous note forbid us to proceed. Are we so
fortunate as to be free from their influence ourselves, we look around
and see our friends bound in chains, from which we should rejoice to
deliver them; but we fear, perhaps, to make an experiment which may
rouse their passions, rather than convince their understandings.

Who can count the multitudes yearly consigned to the tomb, by the
indulgence of a fastidious and unnatural appetite? Headaches,
flatulencies, cholics, dyspepsias, palsies, apoplexies, and death,
pursue the Epicurean train, as ravens follow the march of an armed host,
to prey on those who fall in the "battle of the warrior, with their
garments rolled in blood." The truth of this statement will not be
questioned. Yet where is the physician, possessing sufficient moral
courage to raise his voice against the system of modern cookery? Should
it be thought, that, as medical men have given no more encouragement to
that system than any other class in society, they are not bound to use
any extraordinary exertions to produce a change; still a wide field is
left open to benevolent action in reference to those things, the
influence of which is injurious to mankind.

Gentlemen--there is a baneful habit, diffused, like the atmosphere,
through all classes, and affecting all the ramifications of society. And
this habit owes much of its prevalence to the advice and example of
respectable physicians. We indulge the hope, from the great increase of
medical knowledge, that the time will soon arrive, when persons disposed
to vicious indulgence will be unable to entrench themselves behind our
professional advice. I am aware that I tread on dangerous ground, in
attempting to investigate the propriety of a practice which has been
introduced and approved by a large portion of the members of this
respectable Society. You may start at the suggestion, and regard it as
unworthy of your notice. Let me hope, however, that you will suspend
your opinions, while I endeavor to present the _natural history,
chemical composition_, and _medical properties_ of one of our most
deadly narcotics--the _Tabaci Folia_, _Nicotiana Tabacum_, i. e.
tobacco. If in the prosecution of this inquiry, we shall be able to
discover the great and injurious effects which the use of this poisonous
plant produces on the constitution, I shall be excused, if I urge this
subject on your consideration with more than ordinary importunity.


"This plant was unknown in Europe until after the discovery of America
by the Spaniards, and was first carried to England by Sir Francis Drake,
A. D. 1560. The natives of this continent call it _petun_; those of the
islands, _yoli_. The Spaniards, who gave it the name of _tobacco_, took
that name from Tabaco, a province in Yucatan, where they first found it,
and first learned its use. Some contend that it derives its name from
Tobago, one of the Caribbee Islands, discovered by Columbus, in
1498."[A] It received the name _tobacco_ from Hernandez de Toledo, who
first sent it to Spain and Portugal.

The botanic description of this plant may be found in most works on the
science of botany: and therefore I shall not detain you with it at this
time. The plant, while growing exhibits a very beautiful appearance, but
is so extremely nauseous, that in all the variety of insects, only one
is found to feed upon it. This is a worm "_sui generis_," the mode of
its propagation being entirely unknown; and from its being the only
living creature (man excepted) that will devour this plant,[B] it is
called "_tobacco worm_."

    [Footnote A: See Rees' Cyclopedia.]

    [Footnote B: Dictionary of Arts and Sciences.]


It is of a yellowish green color; it has a strong, narcotic, and
foetid odor, with a bitter and extremely acrid taste.


"Mucilage, albumen, or gluten, extractive, a bitter principle, an
essential oil, nitrate of potass, which occasions its deflagration,
muriate of potass, and a peculiar proximate principle, upon which the
virtues of the plant are supposed to depend, and which has therefore
been named _Nicotin_. This peculiar principle is considered by some, as
approaching the essential oil in its properties. It is colorless, has an
acrid taste, and the peculiar smell of tobacco; and occasions violent
sneezing. With alcohol and water it forms a colorless solution, from
which it is precipitated by a tincture of galls. Tobacco yields its
active matter to water and proof spirit, but most perfectly to the
latter; long boiling weakens its powers. A most powerful oil may be
obtained by distillation, and separating it from the surface of the
water on which it floats."


These are considered to be those of a powerful _narcotic_,
_antispasmodic_, _emetic_, _cathartic_, _sudorific_, and _diuretic_.

"As a _narcotic_, it is endued with the most energetic, poisonous
properties, producing, when administered even in small doses, severe
nausea and vomiting, cold sweats, universal tremors, with extreme
muscular debility." From its exerting a peculiar action on the nervous
system, as ascertained by the well directed experiments of Mr. Brodie,
it powerfully controls the action of the heart and arteries, producing
invariably a weak, tremulous pulse, with all the apparent symptoms of
approaching death. And so different is its operation from that of other
narcotics, that it actually operates with more destructive efficacy,
when used by way of injection, than when applied either to the skin, or
when taken into the stomach.

From what has been said of its narcotic powers, you, Gentlemen, will
readily infer its virtue as an article of _medicine_. If we wish, at any
time, to prostrate the powers of life in the most sudden and awful
manner, we have but to administer a dose of tobacco, and our object is
accomplished. Hence its use in obstinate constipation, in cholic, in the
iliac passion, and in stranguary.

As it is conceded that its efficacy as an _antispasmodic_ depends upon
its power to prostrate every vestige of tone and elasticity in the
muscular fibre, prudence would dictate that it should be used with the
utmost circumspection, when the system had been previously exhausted by
the disease, or by the antecedent method of cure. Melancholy instances
are on record, of the fatal effects of this medicine when administered
without this caution, both as an internal remedy, and as an external
application in cutaneous diseases. Two instances will suffice.

"A medical practitioner," says Paris, "after repeated trials to reduce a
strangulated hernia, injected an infusion of tobacco, and shortly after
sent the patient in a carriage to the Westminster Hospital, for the
purpose of undergoing the operation; but the unfortunate man arrived
only a few minutes before he expired."

"I knew a woman," says the same learned author, "who applied to the
heads of three of her children, afflicted with scald-head, an ointment
composed of snuff and butter; but what was the poor woman's surprise, to
find them immediately seized with vertigo, violent vomiting, fainting,
and convulsions."

We next come to its effects as an _emetic_. "As such," says Professor
Chapman, "tobacco claims our attention. Cullen and many others opposed
its use, on account of the harshness of its operation. Certainly it
exceeds all others in the promptness, violence, and permanence of its
impressions. But these very qualities, unpleasant as they are, enhance
its value in many cases."

"Tobacco seems especially to be adapted to the evacuation of some
poisons; and it has this advantage, that it acts with equal certainty
and expedition, when applied to the region of the stomach in the form of
a poultice, as when internally administered." Professor Barton says, he
had recourse to an application of the moistened leaves of this plant to
the region of the stomach, with complete success, to expel an inordinate
quantity of laudanum, in a case where the most active emetics, in the
largest doses, were resorted to in vain. But most poisons, particularly
the corrosive, are attended with so much exhaustion, that it would seem
perilous to administer tobacco, lest by its own depressing effects, the
powers of vitality might be irrecoverably extinguished. In many
instances, however, it appears that it may be administered in small
doses with safety and advantage.

We are informed by a respectable writer, that while at the Cape of Good
Hope, he had a number of Hottentots, with intermittent fever, under his
care. Having few medicines, he resorted to tobacco, and found six grains
of snuff as effectual in exciting vomiting, as two of Tartar emetic.

By many it is preferred in minute doses, as a nauseating medicine. Thus
administered, it has succeeded in subduing some of the most violent
symptoms of the most furious cases of mania; and where it cannot be
given by the mouth, from the obstinacy of the patient, it may with equal
benefit be applied in the form of a poultice.

As a _cathartic_, tobacco is entitled to notice. "Some physicians have
been in the habit of prescribing this powerful substance not only for
the more dangerous cases of incarcerated hernia, but in all cases of
obstinate constipation, from whatever cause produced. To relieve these
painful diseases, it has been usually given in the form of a clyster,
regulating the dose to the age, circumstances, and strength of the
patient; and it is affirmed to have proved, in many instances, very
effectual, and to possess the confidence of practitioners."

I was informed by a learned and ingenious friend, that, having an
obstinate case of ascaris lumbricoides in his own family, after repeated
unsuccessful efforts to dislodge the worms, he at last had recourse to
this potent remedy, a poultice of which he applied to the region of the
stomach. The worms were almost instantaneously expelled, but with very
alarming symptoms, and a complete prostration of the patient. From these
circumstances, we should be led to conclude, that its efficacy as a
vermifuge defends either upon its narcotic properties, or upon its
sudden and powerful effect as a cathartic.

Its effects as a _sternutatory_, i. e. as exciting to sneeze, are known
to all. If applied to the nostrils, in the form of a powder or snuff, it
produces violent and repeated sneezing, with a slight degree of vertigo.
The violent agitation produced in this way, together with a copious
discharge from the nostrils, often relieves catarrh, headache, and
incipient opthalmia or inflammation of the eyes. But habit soon blunts
the sensibility of the organs, and much positive injury follows the
habitual use of snuff. It has been a popular remedy in many places for
the cure of scald-head, psora, and most other cutaneous eruptions. It
has also been applied for cleansing ulcers, and for the removal of
indolent tumors. But the dreadful effects produced by it when absorbed
into the system, have induced most medical men to abandon it altogether,
and prescribe a more safe application.

Though it is said, by Dr. Brailsford, to be a _sudorific_ of
considerable efficacy, I am in possession of no facts which go to
support such a conclusion, unless indeed it be the fact, that it in an
eminent degree brings on that cold perspiration of which we have spoken,
and which is, in many instances, the immediate precursor of death.

But of all others, its _diuretic_ properties have been the most lauded.
Dr. Fowler was the first to bring them extensively into notice. In
dropsy, dysury, gravel, and nephritis calculosa or inflammation of the
kidneys, the infusion and tincture were given by him with astonishing
success. In spasmodic asthma, the same distinguished physician found it
to afford relief.

Mr. Earle, a surgeon of some eminence, has more recently treated several
inveterate cases of retention of urine on the same plan and with similar
effects, and adds his testimony to its efficacy in tetanus, trismus, and
other spasmodic affections. Of its power to relieve spasm there can be
no doubt. What has been related of its sedative qualities, is abundantly
sufficient to establish that fact. Cramps, convulsions, and even the
vital principle itself, give way before the exhibition of this deadly
narcotic. Hence, to its power of prostrating the muscular energy, it
owes its efficacy in preventing retention of urine.

We have now gone through with an examination of the medicinal properties
of tobacco, and have arrived at the following conclusion, viz. that few
substances are capable of exerting effects so sudden and destructive, as
this poisonous plant. Prick the skin of mouse with a needle, the point
of which has been dipped in its essential oil, and immediately it swells
and dies. Introduce a piece of common "twist," as large as a kidney
bean, into the mouth of a robust man, unaccustomed to this weed, and
soon he is affected with fainting, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and loss
of vision. At length the surface becomes deadly pale, the cold sweat
gathers thick upon his brow, the pulse flutters or ceases to beat, a
universal tremor comes on, with slight spasms and _other_ symptoms of
dissolution. As an emetic, few articles can compare with it for the
promptness and efficiency of its operation; at the same time there are
none which produce such universal debility. As a cathartic, it produces
immediate and copious evacuations, with great prostration of strength;
but its dose can with difficulty be regulated.

If such be a fair statement of its effects on the human system; if it
requires all the skill of the most experienced practitioner to guard
against those sudden depressions which uniformly follow its use, when
administered with the utmost circumspection; and if, with all this
caution, its operation is still followed by the most alarming, and even
fatal consequences--what shall we say of those who habitually subject
their constitutions to the destructive influence of this worse than
"Bohan Upas?"

To an individual unacquainted with the fact, it would seem incredible
that a weed, possessed of properties so poisonous, should ever have been
sought as an article of luxury. Yet it has not only been sought, but
even credulity startles at the extent to which it has been used. "Like
opium, it calms the agitations of our corporeal frame, and soothes the
anxieties and distresses of the mind." Its powers are felt and its
fascinations acknowledged, by all the intermediate grades of society,
from the sot who wallows in the mire of your streets, to the clergyman
who stands forth a pattern of moral excellence, and who ministers at the
altar of God. For it the Arab will traverse, unwearied, his burning
deserts; and the Icelander risk his life amidst perpetual snows. Its
charms are experienced alike, by the savage who roams the wilds of an
American forest, and the courtier who rolls in luxury and prescribes
rules of refinement to the civilized world; by the miscreant who wrings
from the cold hand of charity the pittance that sustains his life, and
the monarch who sways his sceptre over half the globe; by him who is
bent with woes and years, and him whose cheek is covered yet with
boyhood's down. Hence we might conclude it capable of giving strength to
the weary, vivacity to the stupid, and wisdom to men void of
understanding; capable of soothing the sorrows of the afflicted, of
healing the wounds of the spirit, and assuaging the anguish of a broken
heart. But how it fulfils these desirable indications, will be our next
business to inquire.

Tobacco, as a luxury, has been used for the two last centuries over all
the civilized, and the greater portion of the uncivilized world. The
modes have been _snuffing_, _smoking_, and _chewing_. Its effects, when
habitually used in each of these modes, will now be examined. As far as
my observations extend, few, if any, of all the devotees to this
stupefying substance, ever resort to its use without some supposed
necessity; and often, alas _too often_, by the advice of physicians.

The benefit to be derived from the exhibition of a medicine in the cure
of disease, should not alone induce us to prescribe it, without due
regard to the injury which may result to the constitution. Had this rule
been observed relative to the subject under consideration, I apprehend
the use of this baneful drug would have been less extensive.

Snuff has been prescribed for a variety of complaints, among which are
headache, catarrh, and some species of opthalmia, and no doubt sometimes
with very good effect; as I have, in a very few instances, witnessed.
But the fact seems to have been overlooked, that its only power to
relieve these complaints arises from the copious discharge of mucus from
the nostrils, during the violent paroxysm of sneezing which invariably
attends its first application; and that its salutary influence ceases,
whenever these peculiar effects cease to accompany its exhibition. Hence
in all cases where it is continued an indefinite time, or until the
schneiderian membrane loses its sensibility, it not only fails of its
medicinal effect, but actually becomes pernicious; aggravating the very
disease it was intended to cure. It not only does this, but goes on
committing great ravages on the whole nervous system, superinducing
hypocondria, tremors, and premature decay of all the intellectual
powers. A thickening of the voice, is also the unavoidable result of
habitual snuff-taking. This disagreeable consequence is produced, either
by partially filling up the nasal avenues, or by destroying the
sensibility of the parts. Be that as it may, we would say of the change,
in the forcible language of Cowper: "O! it is fulsome, and offends me
more than the nasal twang, heard at conventicle from the pent nostril,
spectacle bestrid."

It also occasions loss of appetite, frequent sickness at the stomach,
with many other disagreeable symptoms. A case in point, is related by
Dr. Cullen, of a woman who had been in the habit for twenty years. At
length she found on taking a pinch before dinner, she had no appetite.
This having frequently occurred, she was induced to postpone her pinch
till after dinner, when she ate her meal with her accustomed relish, and
went on snuff-taking in the afternoon without inconvenience.

Another instance is related by the same author, of the injurious effects
of this habit. A lady, who had been accustomed to take snuff freely, was
seized with a severe pain in her stomach, which continued unabated
notwithstanding many remedies were applied; until accidentally her snuff
was omitted for a few days, when the pain was found to subside, and did
not return until she again had recourse to her snuff. Then, to her utter
astonishment, it immediately came with all its former severity, and
would yield to no treatment without a relinquishment of the snuff-box,
which (strange to tell) the woman laid aside, and recovered her health.

Most persons in the constant habit of taking snuff, are led on
insensibly, until they consume enormous quantities. But as they are
accustomed both to its stimulant and narcotic effects, they are not
aware of the pernicious consequences. In the midst of interesting
conversation, they frequently transcend the bounds assigned them by
habit, and the consequence is, sickness, faintness, and trembling, with
some vertigo and confusion of head. During this paroxysm of snuffing,
particles of the powdered tobacco are carried back into the fauces, and
thence into the stomach; which occasions not only sickness at the time,
but is long after followed with dyspepsia and other symptoms of
disordered abdominal viscera.

The second mode of habitually using this drug, is _smoking_. This, too,
has been prescribed by reputable members of the faculty. And for what
purpose has this disgusting practice been recommended? "For weakness of
the stomach," to be sure. Persons who have a craving appetite, and
consume more food, particularly at dinner, than their stomach will
readily digest, experience considerable uneasiness for some time after
eating. The mouth and fauces sympathize with the overloaded organ, and
an increased quantity of fluid is poured from the mucous follicles and
salivary glands, to aid in the process of digestion. Under these
accumulating difficulties, the man calls on the "_Doctor_," who very
wisely imagines these symptoms are sufficient evidence that he has a
"weak and watery stomach," and the pipe and cigar are recommended to
carry off the superabundant humors, which still are unable to assimilate
the enormous load with which, from time to time, the stomach is crowded.
But as the application of the burnt oil of tobacco to the mouth and
fauces, from its stimulant and narcotic qualities, benumbs the senses
and renders the individual less conscious of his distress, he takes it
for granted that he is materially relieved, and knows not, poor man,
that it is all delusion. Thus, instead of taking the only rational
method, that of adapting the quantity of food to the powers of
digestion, he pursues a course which continues to weaken the organs of
digestion and assimilation, and at length plunges him into all the
accumulated horrors of dyspepsia, with a complete prostration of the
nervous system.

But it has been said, that smoking will cure the tooth-ache; and we
should have recourse to any means for the removal of so painful a
disease. That it will, as a powerful sedative, lessen the pain, and
sometimes even altogether remove tooth-ache, is probably true; but why
continue the practice after the occasion has ceased? Opium and calomel,
judiciously administered, will relieve _cholera morbus_; but whoever
thought of making them an article of diet, because from their
application he had experienced relief in that dangerous complaint? Or
whoever dreamed of using them constantly, lest he might again be
attacked with it? Would not prudence dictate to lay them aside, that
they might not lose their influence on the system, and consequently
their medicinal virtues?

But smoking sometimes diminishes the secretions of the mouth, producing
dryness and thirst, instead of moisture; still it is used with the same
perseverance as in the former case, and to obviate the same difficulty,
an overburdened stomach. And such is the united influence of its
stimulant and narcotic qualities, that the _thirst it occasions is not
to be allayed by ordinary drinks, but wine, ale, and brandy must be
taken, to satisfy this unnatural demand_. Hence, smoking has, in many
instances, been the sad precursor to the whiskey-jug and brandy-bottle,
which together have plunged their unfortunate victims into the lowest
depths of wretchedness and woe.

I am well acquainted with a man in a neighboring county, whose
intellectual endowments would do honor to any station, and who has
accumulated a handsome estate; but whose habits, of late, give unerring
premonition to his friends of a mournful result. This man informed me
that it was the fatal thirst occasioned by smoking his cigar, in
fashionable society, that had brought him into his present wretched and
miserable condition. Without any desire for ardent spirit, he first
sipped a little gin and water, to allay the disagreeable sensations
brought on by smoking, as water was altogether too insipid to answer the
purpose. Thus he went on from year to year, increasing his stimulus from
one degree to another, until he lost all control over himself; and now
he stands as a beacon, warning others to avoid the same road to

Smoking has been prescribed for spasmodic asthma, and undoubtedly with
some success; and the manner in which it affords relief in this
distressing disease has been pointed out, when speaking of the narcotic
and antispasmodic effects of this drug. But suppose it capable of
relieving the paroxysm, when administered to a person unaccustomed to
its deadly stimulus, it will by no means be followed by the same happy
effect, when once its use becomes habitual.

But smoking has been the grand resort to secure the system from the
influence of contagion; and perhaps no power ascribed to it, has ever
been so universally acknowledged. But upon what series of experiments
are these pretensions founded? From all the attention which I have
bestowed on this investigation, I have been unable to discover any
evidence of its utility in this respect, except what arose from the
prejudices of the ignorant, or the obstinacy of those who are slaves to
the practice of it. The bare assertion of Deimerbroek, "that it kept off
the plague," without a single corroborative fact, would hardly be
sufficient authority on which to establish a conclusion so important;
especially when we have the united experience of Rivernus, Chemot, and
Cullen, to prove the opposite of this position. Hence we conclude, that
its properties in keeping off contagion, depend on its sedative powers,
which it possesses in common with other narcotics, wine, brandy, and
opium. As these lessen sensibility, and sometimes allay anxiety of the
mind, it is not impossible that in a very few instances they may have
prevented the exciting causes of disease from taking effect. But what
are these few, when compared with the multitudes whose nervous systems
have been destroyed by this pernicious habit, and thus exposed to all
the horrors of malignant disease.

Smoking also assuages the _tedium_ of life. Here is the grand secret.
Man fears to be alone; and when left to his own solitary reflections, he
dreads the result of self-examination. He flies for relief to his pipe,
his cigar, his quid, or his bottle, with the vain hope of escaping from
himself. To accomplish an object so desirable, he hesitates not to
_stupify_ those noble faculties which he cannot hope to extinguish, and
with which he has been endowed by the God of nature, for wise and
benevolent purposes. And will you, gentlemen, by precept and example,
longer sanction _such_ a course of conduct,--conduct so degrading to us
as intelligent beings, and as conservators of the public health?

The third mode of habitually using tobacco, is _chewing_. In this manner
all its deadly powers are speedily manifest, in the commencement of the
practice, as has been already shown. In this mode, too, its nauseous
taste and stimulant property excite and keep up a profuse discharge from
the mucous follicles and salivary glands. Probably to this circumstance
alone, is owing the superior efficacy of this mode of using this drug in
the cure of tooth-ache. But whether this enormous waste of the
secretions of the mouth and fauces can be borne by the constitution with
impunity, you, Gentlemen, are abundantly competent to judge.
Physiologists agree that these secretions are intended to assist in
preparing the aliments for deglutition, by rendering them sufficiently
fluid, and afterwards, by their peculiar properties, to promote
digestion and assimilation. The great increase of these just before and
after eating, and the large quantities swallowed about that time, are
unequivocal evidence of their importance to the digestive economy. Then
what must be the state of that man's digestion, who, until seated at
table, keeps his quid in his mouth, and immediately returns it thither,
after rising from his meal? And when we reflect, that large quantities
of saliva strongly impregnated with this poison, and even particles of
the substance itself, are frequently swallowed, what, again I ask, is
the probable condition of such a person's digestive organs?

I know it may be said in reply, that such persons often consume large
quantities of food, without experiencing any perceptible inconvenience;
and I also know that they are often emaciated, notwithstanding the
enormous portion of aliment they daily consume. Under these
circumstances the emaciation arises, either from the profuse discharge
of saliva, or an imperfect digestion, or the combined influence of both.
Hence, when a man of a corpulent habit, with a keen appetite, who is
unwilling to forego his wine and to use moderation in his roast beef,
applies for professional advice to prevent corpulence, medical men very
naturally and philosophically direct him, if he persists in his excess,
to the use of tobacco, as a temporary relief, against the direful
effects of his gluttony and intemperance.

A clergyman of high standing informed me, that he acquired the habit of
using tobacco in college, and had continued the practice for a number of
years; but he found, by experience, his health materially impaired,
being often affected with sickness, lassitude, and faintness. His
muscles also became flabby and lost their tone, and his speaking was
seriously interrupted by an elongation of the uvula. His brother, an
intelligent physician, advised the discontinuance of his tobacco. He
laid it aside. Nature, freed from its depressing influence, soon gave
signs of returning vigor. His stomach resumed its wonted tone, his
muscles acquired their former elasticity, and his speaking was no more
annoyed by a relaxation of them.

A respectable man of my acquaintance, about forty years of age, who
commenced chewing tobacco at the age of eighteen, was for a long time
annoyed by depression of spirits, which increased until it became a
settled melancholy, with great emaciation, and the usual symptoms of
that miserable disease. All attempts to relieve him proved unavailing,
until he was persuaded to dispense with his quid. Immediately his
spirits revived, his countenance lost its dejection, his flesh
increased, and he soon regained his health. Another man, who used
tobacco very sparingly, became affected with loss of appetite, sickness
at stomach, emaciation, and melancholy. From a conviction that even the
small quantity he chewed was the source of his trouble, he entirely left
it off, and very soon recovered.

I was once acquainted with a learned, respectable, and intelligent
physician, who informed me, that from his youth he had been accustomed
to the use of this baneful plant, both by smoking and chewing. At
length, after using it very freely while indisposed, he was suddenly
seized with an alarming vertigo, which, without doubt, was the result of
this destructive habit. This afflicting complaint was preceded by the
usual symptoms which accompany a disordered stomach, and a relaxation of
nerves, with which, Gentlemen, you are too familiar to need a
description here. After the application of a variety of remedies to
little or no purpose, he quit the deleterious practice, and though his
vertigo continued long and obstinate, he has nearly or quite recovered
his former health. And he has never doubted but that the use of tobacco
was the cause of all his suffering in this disagreeable disease. Many
more cases might be cited, but sufficient has been said to establish the
doctrine here laid down.[C]

   [Footnote C: And here I am happy in having permission to give
   the opinion of one of the ablest physicians in Massachusetts,
   as to the use of tobacco. "The chewing of tobacco," says he,
   "is not necessary or useful _in any case that I know of_: and
   I have abundant evidence to satisfy me that its use may be
   discontinued without pernicious consequences. The common
   belief, that it is beneficial to the teeth, is, I apprehend,
   entirely erroneous. On the contrary, by poisoning and relaxing
   the vessels of the gums, it may impair the healthy condition
   of the vessels belonging to the membranes of the socket, with
   the condition of which, the state of the tooth is closely

Having gone through with an examination of the _physical_ influence of
tobacco, let us now, for a few moments, attend to its _political_ and
_moral_ influence.

1. _It is a costly practice._ The whole adult population in the United
States is estimated at six millions, one half of which are males.
Allowing but one half of these to use tobacco in some form, we shall
have one and a half millions to be taxed with this consumption. If we
take into the account all who are in its use before they arrive at the
period of adult age, it would swell the amount to two millions. Lest we
should be accused of exaggeration, we will estimate the whole number of
devotees at one million, who pay their daily homage at the shrine of
this stupifying idol. The expense to the consumers of this drug varies,
according to the quantity and mode of using. Those who are in the habit
of smoking freely, and use none but the best Spanish cigars, pay a tax,
I am informed by good judges, of not less than fifty dollars a year.
While the moderate consumer of Scotch snuff pays from one to two
dollars. Somewhere between these wide extremes, may be found the fair
estimate of an average cost. If one fifth of the whole number of
consumers should pay the highest estimate, it would amount to ten
millions annually. Then if three-fifths pay but ten dollars apiece, it
will amount to six millions; and if the remaining one-fifth pay but one
dollar each, we shall have two hundred thousand dollars more. These
added together will make an aggregate of _sixteen millions two hundred
thousand dollars_. In this estimate nothing has been said of another
class of consumers, which delicacy forbids me to mention, (and I hope I
shall receive their forgiveness for my neglect;) nor of the time wasted
in procuring and devouring this precious morsel. But lest even this very
moderate calculation should be considered extravagant, which is by many
competent judges believed to be far too low, we will reckon the
consumers at one million, and the average cost at ten dollars each a
year, for the whole; and then we have _the enormous tax of three
millions of dollars_, to be annually paid in these United States for the
useless consumption of this loathsome drug.

2. _This practice paves the way to drunkenness._ A few reasons have
already been given, why _smoking_ tends strongly to favor the
introduction of ardent spirits. The dryness of mouth induced in some, is
not the only case where a thirst for strong drink is produced. The great
waste of saliva, occasioned both by smoking and chewing, has the same
dangerous tendency. The fact that few of all the consumers of this plant
are fond of those simple beverages so grateful to the unvitiated taste,
and that most are inordinately attached to ale, wine, and brandy, is
sufficient evidence of the dreadful truth, that it is the faithful
pioneer to intemperance. What though there are some few and honorable
exceptions; and what though there are _many_, who for a long time have
used the poisonous plant, and have escaped the yawning gulf; still, a
sufficient number have been swallowed up, to warrant the general
conclusion. The few specifications already made above, might easily be
increased a hundred fold.

Though every lover of tobacco is not a slave to rum, yet _almost every
drunkard is a slave to tobacco_; and this is indirect evidence that the
habits are in a manner associated, or have a sort of natural affinity.
If such be its tendency, what moral responsibility rests upon the man
who shall recommend it, either by professional advice, or by his own
example! What an infinitude of moral evil _must_ follow in its train, if
drunkenness be its legitimate effect! What woes, what sorrows, what
wounds without cause, may spring into existence at your bidding, when
you prescribe the habitual use of this baneful plant! By such a
prescription you incautiously open a fountain from which may issue
streams, disturbing the peace of private families, pouring the waters of
contention into peaceful and harmonious neighborhoods, embittering every
condition of life, and poisoning every department of human society.[D]

   [Footnote D: An eminent writer in favor of Temperance, has
   given it as his opinion, that at least one tenth of all the
   drunkards were made such by the use of Tobacco.]

3. _It is an indecent practice._ To say nothing of the disagreeable
contortions of countenance assumed by the great variety of snuffers,
smokers, and chewers; to say nothing of the pollution, inseparable from
these habits, to the mouth, breath, and apparel, to the house and its
furniture, (all which are too familiar to require description;) I ask,
where is the man making any pretensions to refinement, who would not
blush to offend the delicate sensibilities of the _fair_, by smoking his
pipe or cigar in their presence? True politeness would seem to require,
moreover, that even the feelings of _gentlemen_ should be respected. But
all sense of propriety seems to have fled before the indulgence of this
foolish habit. To such an extent has it obtained, that we meet it in the
kitchen, in the dining-room, and in the parlor; in every gathering of
men of business; in every party of pleasure; in our halls of
legislation; in our courts of justice; and even the sanctuary of God is
sometimes polluted by this loathsome practice. It is impossible to walk
the street without being constantly assailed by this noxious vapor, as
it is breathed from the mouths of all classes in community, from the
sooty chimney-sweep, to the parson in his sacerdotal robe. You can
scarcely meet a man in the street, with whom you have business, but he
pours a stream of smoke into your face, exceedingly disgusting. And this
he does too, without imagining that he transgresses the rules of
politeness, or gives you any cause of offence.

In these habits we resemble the _Aborigines_ of our country. They load
their huge pipes with the dried leaves of this plant, and when lighted,
they breathe the dark cloud of smoke from their mouth and nostrils, and
as it curls around their head, ascending towards heaven, they present it
as an offering to appease the anger of the Great Spirit. A mutual
influence has resulted from our intercourse with the Indian. We have
taught him how to debase himself below the brute, and destroy the quiet
of savage life by the use of our _whiskey_; and he, in return, has
taught us to destroy our constitutions, and interrupt the harmony of
civilized society, by the habitual use of his deadly narcotic.[E]

   [Footnote E: The counsel given by the Journal of Health, is,
   therefore, in perfect accordance with the principles of
   medical philosophy. "Our advice is, to desist, immediately and
   entirely, from the use of tobacco in every form, and in any
   quantity, however small."--"A reform of this, like of all evil
   habits, whether of smoking, chewing, drinking, and other
   vicious indulgences, to be efficacious, must be _entire, and
   complete_, from the very moment when the person is convinced,
   either by his fears or his reason, of its pernicious tendency
   and operation."]

Gentlemen, I have done. The subject, with a slight examination, is
before you. I have plainly and fearlessly expressed my opinion, without
intending to wound the feelings of a single individual. If your
sentiments correspond with mine, you will assist in bringing this odious
practice to the bar of public opinion. There let it be subjected to a
severe, but dispassionate trial; and if on a cool and deliberate
investigation, its pernicious tendency shall fully appear, then let the
American people rise up, and with united voice pronounce its sentence of
final condemnation.



"But," says the lover of tobacco, "how can it be so deleterious when
multitudes, who apparently enjoy good health, use it daily?"

In this objection two things are assumed, viz.

1. The existence of a perfect standard of health.

2. That this standard is not depreciated by the habitual use of tobacco.

If we examine these positions in the light of truth, we shall find them
both defective.

"The varieties in point of health," says an eminent physiologist, "are
numerous and considerable. There is, indeed, a certain state of health,
which may be said to be peculiar to each individual. Such persons as we
suppose to be in the enjoyment of the most perfect health, differ
surprisingly, not only from each other, but from their own condition at
other times, as well in consequence of a difference in the constitution
of the blood, as a diversity of tone and other vital energies." One
state may be said to be healthy compared with another; and the same may
be affirmed of persons. One may enjoy health when compared with an
invalid. In all these cases it will be seen that health is only
comparative. But to sustain this part of the objection it would be
necessary to prove, what I presume will not be attempted, "that the
thousands who daily use tobacco, are enjoying the maximum of health and
strength;" i. e. that every function of the system is performed to
absolute perfection. For if it be admitted that any function is
deranged, it would be difficult, I apprehend, to prove, that that
derangement was not occasioned by the use of tobacco.

That men accustomed to hard labor will endure more fatigue, than those
of sedentary or enervated habits, needs no argument to prove. That the
arm of the blacksmith acquires strength beyond the arm of the literary
recluse, is altogether obvious.

The laborer will consume more food; consequently his frame will acquire
a proportionate degree of strength, and, all other things being equal,
it will be able to resist the influence of extraneous causes, to a much
greater extent than that of the voluptuary.

Let now the blacksmith use tobacco, and although there may be no
perceptible diminution of vigor, (since you have no perfect standard to
try it by,) because he still exceeds in strength persons possessing
constitutions naturally less vigorous, or constitutions less hardened by
toil; yet, whether the same hardy son of Vulcan can endure more
hardship, while using tobacco, than he could have done had he never used
the baneful plant, is the question?

That many persons apparently enjoy good health, and yet use tobacco,
cannot be denied. And the same may be affirmed with equal propriety of
opium and alcohol. I once knew a man who, from his youth till he had
reached his sixty-ninth year, became intoxicated, whenever he could
procure sufficient liquor to produce this effect; and during that time
he was never so ill as to require medical advice. I have known others to
be literally steeped in ardent spirit, who were seldom sick; and yet
few, I apprehend, will affirm, that alcohol used to such excess is not

The Turks, who, for aught to the contrary that appears in their history,
enjoy as good health as the people of the United States, and are said to
attain a longevity as great, use opium for the purpose of intoxication,
much in the same manner in which the latter employ alcohol and wine,
these being forbidden to the former by their creed. Yet, after all, the
man who could adduce these facts to prove the harmlessness of the
substances under consideration, must be destitute of that physiological
knowledge which is necessary to understand the natural operations of the
human system.

There is a principle in the animal economy, which powerfully resists
morbid impressions, and tends to expel whatever is noxious. This
principle, called by some "the medical power of nature," is roused to
action by the application of an offending agent to any part of the human
system. On the first intimation of the assault, this vigilant sentinel
rallies her forces, and flies to the point of attack.

If she succeed in expelling the invader before any serious mischief has
been done, the system again reposes in quiet; but if not, a more general
tumult arises, and the assistance of art is often required to second her
ineffectual efforts. These phenomena are exhibited in the first use of
tobacco, in all its forms.

Apply snuff to the nostrils of one unaccustomed to it; and a violent
sneezing, with a copious secretion of mucus will follow. Put tobacco
into the mouth and it immediately produces a profuse discharge of
saliva; and if this proves unsuccessful in expelling the unwelcome
intruder, severe nausea and vomiting ensue. Smoking also produces
similar effects. Apply the moistened leaves of tobacco to any part of
the surface of the body, and its deadly effects are soon perceived in an
entire prostration of strength, accompanied with ghastly paleness and

If it were not in a high degree poisonous, no such results would follow
its first application to the living fibre; for they do not follow the
first application of those substances which were, by our wise and
bountiful Creator, designed for the _use_ of man.

Though the effects above described are less violent, when the nerves
(the media through which it operates) become accustomed to the stimulus
of the noxious substance; yet it by no means proves, even in these
circumstances, that it does no injury to the system, any more than the
fact that some men drink a quart of proof spirit daily without
producing death, proves that that amount does them no harm, when half
the quantity taken by a beginner would prove fatal.

In the course of twelve years' observation on the effects of narcotics
upon the human system, I became acquainted with a delicate female, who,
for thirty years, had taken a sufficient quantity of opium daily to kill
the hardiest son of New-England, provided he had been unaccustomed to
its pernicious influence. She, nevertheless, lived to an advanced age,
and was eighty-four years old when I last saw her, though she, at that
time, took every day two scruples of solid opium.

I had the unpleasant task to attend this lady in a fit of sickness. And
with the exception of a few cases, in which similar results have
followed the excessive use of alcohol, it was, without exaggeration, the
most troublesome case that has ever fallen under my care.

All the frightful symptoms of _delirium tremens_ waited around and
haunted her imagination through the day; while shrieks, and groans, and
all the signs of woe attended her nightly couch, to add a gloomy horror
to her unrefreshing and broken slumbers. And so far as my observations
extend, the most inveterate derangements of the nervous system are
either produced or aggravated by the habitual use of narcotics.

The inherent power of the constitution to sustain itself amid the
ever-varying changes to which it is exposed, has been learned by common
observation, as well by the peasant as by the man of erudition. The
fact, that man, "made of one blood, can dwell" in all the varieties of
climate, "on the face of the whole earth," and can sustain himself,
without any change of organization, at one period on the burning sands
of a Numidian desert, at another among the ice-bergs of a Greenland
winter--exhibits in the most convincing light the extent of this
wonderful power.

A curious field of speculation, on this sanative power in the physical
constitution of man, lies open to out view, had we time to pursue it, in
contemplating the habits, customs, and manners of the North American
Indian. Guided by the simple dictates of nature, he gratifies his
appetite with such food as comes most readily within his reach, and
slakes his thirst at the first mountain brook. Sometimes, for days, he
lies sleeping in his smoky wigwam without the means of appeasing hunger;
then rises and follows his game with the fierceness of a tiger, until
the object of his pursuit is overtaken; after which, with the voracity
of a dog, he loads his stomach with food sufficient to satisfy the
cravings of nature, for as many days as he had previously fasted, and
again betakes himself to sleep and inactivity. With all this
irregularity, he is a total stranger to lingering complaints, and to
that numerous as well as fashionable class of diseases denominated
"Nervous." That formidable ailment, _Dyspepsia_, which, like a fiend,
has, for the last few years pervaded the whole land, is unknown to the
Indian; having its origin in the abuses introduced by civilization and
refinement. But to return:

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a man who daily uses tobacco,
enjoys equal health with one who uses none, and is no more liable to
disease; let him once be attacked by disease, and then it will be far
more difficult to remove it, than to do so in one free from such habit.

This will appear from the following considerations:

Remedial agents ordinarily act on the system, by exciting the living
power through the medium of the nerves; hence when these have long been
deadened by the habitual use of any narcotic, common sense, aside from
the lights of science and philosophy, would teach us the difficulty of
making an impression on a system whose nerves had thus been previously

Perhaps the man, who daily drinks ardent spirit, may, from the greater
insensibility of his system, in some cases escape sickness as long as
the most temperate, (though this is by no means a common fact); yet, let
disease once commence, and then we learn, by painful experience, the
disadvantage of having broken down the nervous system by needless and
vicious excess.

Tobacco is acknowledged to be one of the most deadly of the vegetable
narcotics: yet experience proves that the nerves, by habit, become so
accustomed to its stimulus, that it in a great measure loses its power.
How then can we hope with ordinary remedies to make an impression, when
even this powerful agent has itself lost its proper and natural effect?

The unparalleled mortality of the great epidemic of 1812 and 1813, was
in a good measure owing to the immense quantities of ardent spirit
consumed by the victims of that fatal malady. In the town in which I
then resided, about forty adults died in the course of the winter and
spring; and most of those were in the habit of using ardent spirit
freely. And though numbers of temperate persons were attacked, yet many
of these recovered; while every instance within my knowledge, where an
intemperate person was attacked with this formidable disease, it proved

The ravages of the _cholera_ in India and Persia, since 1816: and in the
North of Europe, for the last eighteen months; settle the point in
question beyond reasonable doubt. In one hundred cases where the cholera
proved fatal, ninety of them had been in the liberal use of ardent
spirit. And this fact should be carefully noted, when this formidable
disease has reached Great Britain, and threatens us with its visitation.

If then the habitual use of alcohol, by exhausting the nervous energy,
predisposes the system to disease, and at the same time renders the
disease, when it has commenced, so much more intractable; what shall be
said of the common use of tobacco, which is allowed by all to be a still
more deadly poison, and of course must exhaust the power of the nerves
in a proportionate degree?

A female, aged 27 years, was attacked in December 1829 with a sore
mouth, accompanied with diarrhoea and profuse salivation. These
complaints continued to increase, notwithstanding the application of a
variety of remedies, prescribed by her medical attendant, until the 5th
of March following, when I was called to take charge of the patient. She
was much emaciated. The discharge from the bowels continued unabated,
and was often attended with severe pain and great prostration of
strength. The salivation was accompanied with a burning or scalding
sensation in the mouth and stomach, which proved excessively irritating
to the patient, as well as perplexing to me. On examining her case, I
found the nervous system entirely deranged and much broken by the habit
of smoking, which she had practiced to great excess from the age of
eleven years. I learned, to my surprise and regret, that she commenced
this habit, which afterwards cost her so much suffering, by the advice
of some wise member of the Faculty, who had prescribed it for some
slight derangement of the stomach.

My first efforts were directed to repair the injuries inflicted by the
tobacco-pipe; and though the difficulties to be overcome were many and
obstinate, by patience and perseverance they were all surmounted, and
the woman was at length restored.

The conflict which this poor woman endured, in overcoming a habit that
not only injured her health, but nearly destroyed her life, was dreadful
beyond description. When her pain and distress were great, she would
complain more of this privation, than of all her other sufferings; and
so strong was the desire for smoking, that she, several times during her
recovery, contrary to my orders, indulged in it a few minutes, and each
time with manifest injury; so that she finally was induced to abandon it
altogether, and thus recovered her health. Indeed, she now enjoys better
health than she has done for years.

Any one acquainted with this ordinary effects of this foolish indulgence
in the free use of narcotics, on the nervous system of its victims, will
be convinced by a few years close observation, that such persons
especially, if they are of sedentary habits, are more subject to fits of
despondency, and to a far greater degree, than persons of the same
general health and of the same employment, but who have escaped

I shall here introduce the following extract of a letter, from a
respectable clergyman to the author, as illustrative of this point.

"When I say that the effects of the habitual use of tobacco on the human
system, are injurious; I speak from years of painful experience. I
commenced the use of tobacco when young, like many others, without any
definite object, but experienced no very injurious consequences from it
until I entered the ministry. Then my system began to feel its dreadful
effects. My voice, appetite, and strength soon failed; and I become
affected with sickness at the stomach, indigestion, emaciation, and
melancholy, with a prostration of the whole nervous system. For years my
health has been so much impaired as to render me almost useless in the
ministry, and all this I attribute to the pernicious habit of smoking
and chewing tobacco. And had I continued the practice, I doubt not but
that it would have brought me to an untimely grave. I was often advised
to leave it off, and made several unsuccessful attempts. At length I
became fully convinced that I must quit tobacco or die. I summoned all
my resolution for the fearful exigency, and after a long and desperate
struggle I obtained the victory. I soon began to experience the
beneficial results of my conquest. My appetite has returned; my voice
grows stronger, and I am in a measure freed from that mental dejection
to which I once was subject. My general health is much improved, and I
feel that I am gradually recovering; though it is not to be expected I
shall ever regain what I have lost by this needless and vicious
indulgence. I am satisfied that the common use of tobacco is injurious
to most people, especially those of sedentary habits. On them it
operates with ten-fold energy. I am acquainted with many in the
ministry, who are travelling this road to the grave. I uniformly say to
them: "Lay aside your pipes and tobacco, or you are undone--your labors
in the ministry will soon be at an end.""[F]

   [Footnote F: Another Clergyman writes as follows. "I thank
   God, and I thank you for your advice to abandon smoking. My
   strength has _doubled_ since I quitted this abominable

A mere hint at these evils would seem to be sufficient to awaken
inquiry, among the votaries of the plant in question. I shall therefore
leave it to their candid decision, after a full and free investigation
enables them to arrive at a just conclusion.

The great increase of _dyspepsia_ within the last twenty years, with the
dark and lengthened catalogue of nervous complaints that follow in its
train, is, I have no doubt, in part owing to the universal prevalence of
practices, the propriety of which we are calling in question.

The misery to which the consumers of this drug are subject, when from
any cause they are temporarily deprived or it, would go far to deter a
reflecting man from voluntarily binding himself to this most ignominious
servitude. I have known a hard laboring farmer, who would have resented
the name of _slave_, as much as did the Jews, arise from his bed in the
middle of the night and travel half a mile to procure a quid of tobacco,
because his uneasiness was such, that he could neither sleep nor rest
without it. This uneasiness is more distressing than bodily pain, and
has in some instances produced an agitation of mind bordering upon

Col. Burr informed Dr. Rush, that the greatest complaints of
dissatisfaction and suffering, that he heard among the soldiers who
accompanied General Arnold in his march from Boston through the
wilderness to Quebec, in the year 1775, arose from the want of tobacco.
This was the more remarkable, as they were so destitute of provisions as
to be obliged to kill and eat their dogs.

The Persians, we are informed, often expatriate themselves, when they
are prohibited the use of tobacco, in order to enjoy unmolested this
luxury in a foreign country. Nor are these facts incredible to those,
who are familiar with the laws that regulate the animal economy.

Long and obstinate is the conflict with nature, before the taste or
smell of such disgusting things as alcohol, opium, and tobacco can be
endured. But when she, worn out by repeated and continued assaults,
abandons her post, and gives up the dominion to the artificial appetite,
the order of things is reversed, and we at last find, to our sorrow,
that this unnatural appetite is vastly more ungovernable than the one
implanted by our Creator for things originally pleasant and agreeable.
Add to all these considerations the well attested fact, that no sensible
man, who has himself used the baneful weed, ever advised his neighbor or
child to follow his example, but often the contrary; and its inutility
is sufficiently proved.

Having thus far endeavored to shew the futility of the objection raised
against our doctrine, by the consumers of this drug; let us now, in our
turn, call on them to give a good reason why so much money should be
expended, and so much time wasted, as are annually squandered in the
various departments of raising, preparing, and consuming this plant; and
to point out, if they can, in what manner a poison so deadly acts on the
healthy system without producing evil consequences.

To make out the case, it will be necessary for its advocates to prove
one of the following positions; either,

1. That it produces no effect at all, and is therefore harmless; or,

2. That it produces a good effect, and is indispensable to the enjoyment
of perfect health.

As this part of the enquiry is somewhat important, and since it regards
the success of our principles, we will examine these positions a little
in detail, to see how they are sustained by fact and experience.

If it produces no effect at all, why that universal uneasiness,
amounting as we have seen in some instances almost to distraction,
uniformly manifested by the consumers of this plant, when by accident
they are temporarily deprived of the means of indulgence?

If tobacco produces no effect, why fly to it as a solace for every woe,
as a refuge from affliction and trouble, and as a hiding-place from the
tempests of misfortune?

It will not, it _cannot_ be doubted, that, in its power to allay the
stormy agitations of mind to which we are exposed in our voyage over the
tempestuous sea of life, consists the latent excellence, the _summum
bonum_, of the virtues of tobacco. This sedative power will not be
questioned, by those who have ever witnessed its peculiar effects.

The medicinal effects of tobacco, as applied for the removal of
corporeal disorders, are nearly or quite destroyed by habitual use; but
with what success it is constantly resorted to, to allay anxiety of
mind, let its votaries answer.

A medical gentleman of high standing, in an adjoining county, who has
recently abandoned the common use of tobacco, informed me, that on a
certain occasion his muscular and vital energies were so overcome, by
chewing, that in attempting to put his horse into the stable, he was
obliged to lie down until he had so far recovered his strength as to
enable him to proceed to his house. Many other instances were related by
the same gentleman, of its injurious effects which he had observed, both
on himself and others; particularly in producing watchfulness, which it
was almost impossible for the greatest degree of weariness and fatigue
to overcome. Many others have frequently mentioned this fact to me,
since I began to investigate this subject. Now if tobacco produces no
effect, why are such results witnessed by its consumers, and why do the
candid among them acknowledge that these evils arise from its use? The
health of the medical gentleman above named was materially improved
after laying aside tobacco; and those to whom he recommended a similar
course, have experienced a like favorable result.

The second position is equally unsupported either by experience or sound
reasoning; and is contrary not only to all medical authority on this
subject, but against the investigations of other scientific men who have
chemically examined the constituent principles of tobacco, and who have
experimented largely to ascertain with precision its natural operation
on the living fibre. The lower order of animals have been selected for
these experiments. Given in substance to them, it has uniformly proved
fatal, even in very minute doses.

When its expressed juice or essential oil has been introduced under the
skin of pigeons, kittens, or rabbits, it produced violent convulsions
and often instantaneous death. Does any one doubt the correctness of
these experiments? He can easily satisfy himself of their accuracy, by
obtaining the oil of tobacco, and applying eight or ten drops to the
root of a kitten's tongue. The same deadly effects, as we have seen,
uniformly attend its first application to the human system, if taken to
any considerable extent. This is well understood by its consumers, who
are very cautious for many weeks, and even months, how they deal with
the poisonous drug.

By what transformation is a plant, so deadly in its effects when first
applied to the human system, afterward converted into a harmless article
of diet or luxury? No substance which God has made for the common use of
man, produces similar results; and if such be the fact in relation to
the article in question, in this instance at least the order of nature
is reversed, so that what in its nature is poisonous, becomes by habit
nutritious and salutary. If this be correct reasoning--farewell to the
success of temperance efforts! For _Rum_, after all, may be _convenient_
if not necessary, because its effects are not in every instance
immediately fatal; and because some, by dint of habit, can sustain with
slight _apparent_ injury, what to others unaccustomed to it would
produce instantaneous death.

The stale excuse, so often repeated by the lovers of tobacco, that they
have been advised to use it by physicians, for the mitigation or removal
of some bodily infirmity, may be urged with equal force and propriety by
the tippler and the sot; for many, very many, have been advised by
members of the Faculty, to drink the deadly draught, in some form or
other, either to ease the pains of dyspepsia, to allay the horrors of
_tedium vitæ_, or to drown the anguish of a guilty conscience. And may
not many of these patients say to those of the Faculty, who give advice
for the use of either these stimulants: "Physician, heal thyself." Alas!
when will the profession be without any who use ardent spirit or

In concluding, permit me to address a word to professors of religion on
this subject.

In whatever concerns the cause of virtue and morality, you have a deep
and an abiding interest. When Intemperance spreads abroad his murky
"wings with dreadful shade contiguous," and fills the land with tears of
blood--you look over this frightful _aceldama_ and mourn at the
soul-chilling spectacle. When infidelity and licentiousness exhale their
pestiferous breath, to poison the moral atmosphere and destroy the
rising hope of our country, by undermining the virtue of our youth; the
Christian's heart is pained, and every effort is put forth to stay the
march of desolation. In short, whatever tends to increase the prevalence
of vice, must be witnessed by real Christians with unfeigned regret.

"Manners," says a celebrated writer, "have an influence on morals. They
are the outposts of virtue." Whoever knew a rude man completely and
uniformly moral? The use of tobacco, especially smoking, is offensive to
those who do not practice it.

The habit of offending the senses of our friends or even strangers, by
smoking in their presence, produces a want of respect for their persons;
and this disposes, however remotely, to unkind treatment towards them.
Hence the Methodists interdicted the common use of tobacco with that of
ardent spirit, in the infancy of their society; thereby evincing a just
sense of the self-denial, decency, and universal civility required by
the gospel.

It is painful to witness among Christians the utter disregard of each
others feelings and the rules of propriety, which have obtained in
regard to these habits. They go into a friend's house, and after
enjoying the hospitality of his board, sit down to smoke their pipe or
cigar in his dining-room or parlor with the greatest composure; and that
too, without even condescending to enquire whether it is offensive;
supposing either that the appetites and senses of others are equally
depraved with their own, or that politeness will prevent their raising
any objection to a practice which has become nearly universal. When the
enquiry is made, it is understood to be nothing more than an apology for
unrestrained indulgence; and the host who should intimate that it might
be offensive to some, would be looked upon as having transgressed not
only the rules of modern politeness, but all the laws of hospitality.

Notwithstanding the extent to which smoking prevails, there are some in
almost every family, who are affected with giddiness in the head and
sickness at stomach, whenever they inhale the fumes of the pipe or
cigar, particularly at or near meal time. Yet all this suffering must be
endured, and the fine feelings of the family disregarded. And for what?
Merely to give a Christian, and perhaps a physician or a minister of the
gospel, an opportunity to gratify a vicious appetite which does him no
good, and which, philosophically considered, would disgrace any man who
pretends to be a gentleman.

"What reception," says Dr. Rush, "may we suppose the apostles would have
met with, had they carried into the cities and houses whither they were
sent, snuff-boxes, pipes, cigars, and bundles of cut, or rolls of hog or
pigtail, tobacco? Such a costly and offensive apparatus for gratifying
their depraved appetites would have furnished solid objections to their
persons and doctrines, and would have been a just cause for the clamors
and contumely, with which they were every where assailed."

And yet this very disgusting practice is considered, in these days of
gospel light and civil refinement, almost as an indispensable
prerequisite to fit a minister of Christ to prosecute successfully the
work of a missionary in evangelizing the world. Kindly expostulate with
such Christians, physicians and ministers of the gospel on the propriety
of their conduct, and they meet you with a multitude of the most
frivolous excuses.

One uses tobacco, as the tippler does his rum, as an antidote against a
damp atmosphere. Another, to prevent the accumulation of water or bile
in his stomach; and a third, as a security against the encroachment of
contagious diseases.

But Howard the philanthropist assures us, that it had efficacy neither
in preventing the hospital fever, nor in warding off the deadly plague.
Dr. Rush says, that at Philadelphia it was equally ineffectual, in
preserving its votaries from influenza and yellow fever. Excuse
ourselves as we may, it is at best a disgusting habit, persisted in
against the convictions of our understanding and the dictates of true
politeness, and adapted only to gratify a vitiated and unnatural

It is, indeed, agreeable to observe, that the superior refinement and
regard to good manners, in some parts of the old world, have at length
awakened public sentiment on this subject.

We are informed by travellers, that smoking is disallowed in taverns and
coffee-houses in England, and that taking snuff is becoming
unfashionable and vulgar in France. How much is it to be lamented, that,
while the use of tobacco is thus declining in two of the most
enlightened countries in Europe, it is daily becoming more general in
America! "In no one view," says Dr. Rush, "is it possible to contemplate
the creature man in a more absurd and ridiculous light, than in his
foolish and disgusting attachment to the poisonous weed, tobacco." Who
then can witness groups of boys ten or twelve years old in our streets,
smoking cigars, without anticipating such a depreciation in our
posterity with regard to health and character, as can scarcely be
contemplated without pain and horror!

       *       *       *       *       *

After the foregoing was in type, it was submitted to Doctor Warren, of
this City, with a request that he would examine the whole, carefully,
and give his opinion of it. He has kindly returned the following strong
testimonial in favor of the Dissertation, which cannot but secure it a
wide circulation, and the attentive perusal of every man who values

    DEAR SIR--

    In compliance with your request, I have read over the
    pamphlet of Dr. McAllister on the use of Tobacco. Though my
    present occupations have prevented my doing it so carefully,
    as to entitle me to suggest any alteration or improvement.

    The general tendency of the pamphlet is excellent: and I most
    cordially give my opinion in its favor: for I have often had
    occasion to observe the pernicious effects of the free use of
    tobacco. Many instances of dyspepsia have come under my
    notice, the origin of which was traced to the practice of
    _chewing_; and on the abandonment of the habit, the patients
    were restored to health. I have seen a number of cases of
    injury to the voice, from the introduction of _snuff_ into
    the _facial sinuses_. As to _smoking_, I am well satisfied
    that it is calculated to cause a feverish state of the body;
    and in certain constitutions it weakens the membranes which
    line the nostrils, throat, and lungs, produces a
    susceptibility to colds, and even more serious affections of
    these parts, when it has been much employed.

    From what I have seen, I have been led to believe that this
    article is not necessary nor useful for the preservation of
    health; and that it is often a cause of weakness and
    sickness. I am, with great respect,

                             Your ob't serv't,
                               JOHN C. WARREN.
  _Boston, Jan. 25, 1832._

  NOTE.--Many persons have the opinion that the use of tobacco
    is a preventive of contagious diseases: because it has been
    asserted that tobacconists and others living in the midst of
    the effluvia of this article, are exempted from the attacks
    of such disorders. The practices above alluded to, have in my
    opinion, a contrary effect. Those who live constantly in the
    region of tobacco, by the effect of habit cease to be
    stimulated and over excited by the diffusion of its lighter
    particles in the air they breathe. But those who employ it,
    occasionally, whether in smoking, chewing or snuffing,
    undergo an excitement, more or less considerable; which is
    infallibly followed by a proportionate debility, in which
    state, they would be subject to the attacks of a disease they
    might otherwise have escaped.

    J. C. W.

       *       *       *       *       *


Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other
inconsistencies. Corrections in the text are noted below, with
corrections inside the brackets:

page 12: typo corrected

   colorless solution, from which it is precipitated by a
   tincture of galls. Tobacco yield[yields] its active matter to
   water and proof spirit, but most perfectly to the latter; long

page 17: typo corrected

   thickening of the voice, is also the unavoidable result of
   habitual snuff-taking. This disagreeble[disagreeable]
   consequence is produced, either by partially filling up the

page 29: added colon

   This will appear from the following considerations[:]

   Remedial agents ordinarily act on the system, by exciting the
   living power through the medium of the nerves; hence when

page 31: added missing end quotes

   ministry, who are travelling this road to the grave. I
   uniformly say to them: "Lay aside your pipes and tobacco, or
   you are undone--your labors in the ministry will soon be at an

page 33: typo corrected

   _summum bonum_, of the virtues of tobacco. This sedative power
   will not the[be] questioned, by those who have ever witnessed
   its peculiar effects.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Dissertation on the Medical Properties and Injurious Effects of the Habitual Use of Tobacco" ***

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