The Prejudice Against The Cigarette

A piece of historical truth that reflects several political and social campaigns today.

Between 1876 and 1880 a vigorous campaign in favour of cigarettes was carried on by four large concerns who were the leading manufacturers of the article at that time. The sale and consumption of the goods increased by leaps and bounds and seemed to threaten the cigar industry. There was no real danger, but a small army of retailers and cigar jobbers and manufacturers, it is said, took alarm and started a movement to down the cigarette. Their campaign was run on modern methods. They published in the daily and weekly press bloodcurdling stories written for them by a group of clever New York Bohemians, all of whom, by the way, used cigarettes.

The stories on their face were scientific and plausible. They could be disproved without trouble by chemists and physicians, but to the average reader they were gospel truth. Among the ingenious yarns quoted at the time, most of which are current to-day, were the following: Cigarettes are drugged with Dover's powders, opium, morphine, or chloral hydrate; cigarette papers are bleached with arsenic, antimony, mercury, white zinc, and white lead, and contain appreciable amounts of these poisons; cigarette tobacco is made from stumps and " sojers " taken from the gutter by rag-pickers and tramps; cigarette paper was made in China by lepers; cigarettes were rolled by people whose hands had cancerous, scrofulous, and venereal sores.

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