You may or may not be aware that last month was the Department of Health’s official stop smoking month, it was Stoptober. This blog is for all of you who struggled all month but failed to kick the habit. It’s not too late as help is at hand from J. Henry Wodehouse, whose “The smoking habit, its dangers and its cures” provides us with some excellent 1920’s tips for overcoming the ‘seductive charm of “my lady nicotine”’.
I had not realised that there was much awareness in the 1920s of the dangers posed by smoking. But it appears there were the beginnings of the understanding we have today and Wodehouse has gathered some such comments from a number of physicians and army officers:
It was recognised that the poisonous properties of tobacco were due to nicotine. Wodehouse dramatically warns us that 380 grams are in each pound of tobacco, one tenth of which would kill a dog in three minutes! Poisons in the smoke were also recognised. Try not to inhale the book cautions, and be careful for while “some deliberately inhale … others do it unconsciously by allowing the cigarette to hang on the lip while breathing through the mouth”. If you smoke like this, it’s probably advisable to stop it anyway.
The author will not even talk about how objectionable and dangerous chewing tobacco is.
While dangers are recognised by all interviewed, their extent has not been grasped by as many. I’m not sure that the statements like “Tobacco, like alcohol, whilst harmless enough in a proper dose or when properly used …” are particularly helpful to the quitter; nor does defining smoking to excess as having more than 4 cigarettes or 5 pipes a day.
Yet negative effects are commonly listed as nervousness, sleeplessness, heart disease, thinness, injures to the sight, decay of teeth, inflammation of the tongue and throat, cancer of the lip (interestingly noted as not being attributed to smoking but that it is merely common among smokers) flatulence, acid indigestion, dulling of mental and physical precision. Cardiac effects are noted as particularly dangerous. And if that isn’t enough to make you want to quit it also “blunts moral sensibility, deadens the conscience and …destroys that delicacy of thought and feeling which is characteristic of a true gentleman.”
So to cure yourself of the smoking habit here’s what Wodehouse would have you do:
1) Tell your friends you are quitting (“you will wish to retain your self-respect later”)
2) Buy one last day’s allowance and make your supply last four days (“you are not to buy any more tobacco in any shape or form”)
3) Remove any reminder of tobacco such as ash trays … (“If your fingers are stained with nicotine-remove every vestige with pumice stone”)
4) Think about the gains and distract yourself (a “peppermint lozenge is the finest thing obtainable with which to satisfy tobacco hunger, but don’t buy them where tobacco is sold!”)
5) “Cultivate a feeling of contempt for all smokers”.
6) Seek challenges from friends such as “You won’t do it, Old man” it feels good to prove them wrong.
7) “Be absolutely sure that you obtain at least one complete bowel movement daily, two would be better “(to clear the poison)
And so there you are, with a correct frame of mind and this set of rules you’ll do just fine. As J. Henry Wodehouse assures us “You have everything to gain….”