Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Cigarette and the Boy
UNDER THE DIRECTION OF
CHARLES B. TOWNS
The Cigarette and the Boy
Frederick L. Hoffman, in his scholarly work, which has just been published by the Prudential Press, The Mortality from Cancer Thruout the World, writes: 'The relation of smoking to cancer of the buccal cavity is apparently so well established as not to admit of even a question of doubt.' Much has been written on this phase of the problem of late, but if physicians think that the fact that the short-stemmed clay pipe causes cancer of the lip is the chief evil of the smoking habit, they take a short-sighted view of the situation.
I am convinced that the use of tobacco, chiefly in the form of the eternal cigarette, is responsible for the undoing of seventy-five per cent of the boys who go wrong. Few boys wait until they are mature and their resistance is at its maximum before they begin puffing. It would be remarkable if they did wait, for their fathers and older brothers are constantly blowing smoke into their faces. Even where constrictive laws exist, minors find no difficulty in obtaining cigarettes, so that children of the age that is most easily harmed by the use of tobacco now habitually indulge in its most harmful form. A father who drinks may attempt to conceal his indulgence from his family, but a father who smokes pollutes his home with little publicity.
There is another unfortunate effect of the use of tobacco by boys. When they begin to smoke, they do so against the wishes and often against the orders of their parents. This means broken discipline and deception. The boy who endeavors to hide the fact that lie smokes is started along a path that is even more harmful than tobacco. He has to invent excuses for being absent from home, and to explain away the odor of tobacco that is sure to cling to him; and when a boy begins to lie about these things, he will lie about others. So far as truth goes, the bars are down. Furthermore, he has to spend more money. Unless he is one of those unfortunate youths who are not held to a moderate weekly allowance, too often he will resort to dishonest means to obtain the money to satisfy his newly acquired taste.
And that is not all. Boys who spend their time in smoking go where they will find other lads engaged in the forbidden habit. They find congenial groups in pool-rooms, where they learn to gamble, and in the back rooms of saloons, where they learn to drink. The step from the pool-room or the saloon to other gambling-places and to drinking-places frequented by the unworthy of both sexes is an easy one. Thus the boy whose first wrong-doing was the smoking of cigarettes against the wishes of his parents soon becomes the target for all manner of immoral influences.
In these days of advanced sociological study, when the mind of the world is set upon efficiency, it is astonishing that so little attention has been given to the effect of tobacco upon the young. To mankind at the present time nothing in the world is so important as the conservation of the boy. Humanity might well make any sacrifice conceivable in order to keep its boys clean. Keeping boys clean means keeping girls clean, and whatever keeps boys and girls clean purifies humanity as a whole. In other words, the boy is the most important thing in the world, and his cleanliness the most vital issue. Setting aside entirely the deleterious effect of nicotine upon his physical system, early smoking, which usually means the cigarette, is the most harmful single influence that is at present working against his welfare. We can appreciate the terrific total harm which tobacco does to youth, however, only when we add the psychological harm and the physical harm together. Everything considered, the question is an appalling one.
In the state of existing conditions, it it is impossible to blame most boys very severely for yielding to the smoketemptation; therefore it becomes a difficult matter to blame them for the wrongdoing which tends to follow it. Their error is only the continuation of a similar error that their fathers have made before them and now tacitly encourage. It is difficult to make any lad believe that he need not be a fool because his father is one. Yet in most cases to save a boy from the demonstrable ills of tobacco-using entails just this course of reasoning.
Orators and essayists from the beginning of time have found a stumblingblock in preaching to their followers virtues they admire and value, but do not themselves possess. The father who forbids his son to smoke because it is harmful and expensive, while his own person reeks with it, is not likely to impress the lad very vividly with either the force or the honesty of his argument. More than one parent has found himself abashed in such circumstances by a son with logic and intelligence. For such a parent there is only one really honest course—to admit to his son that he himself has been a fool, but that he does not wish his son to follow in his footsteps.
There is no question in my mind that this matter of tobacco should be made the basis of a very thoro educational campaign among the youth of the United States. The shocking spread of the tobacco habit among the women of American cities indicates, moreover, need for extending this instruction to girls as well. I will deal with this phase of the problem in the August issue of the Medical Review Of Reviews.
Nothing in education is more generally neglected than the enlightenment of the young—an enlightenment which can come only from the mouths of elders who are themselves clean—as to the deadly nature of alcohol, habit-forming drugs, and tobacco.
I should very much dislike to send a young and impressionable son for instruction in any subject to any teacher, male or female, who used cigarettes. Thousands upon thousands of parents in this country feel as I do on this subject; but while they realize the danger that might result from the influence of a teacher who smokes, they utterly neglect the far more dangerous and powerful influence of a father who smokes. To my mind, however, it is essential that parents should seriously consider the personal character of the men to whom they intrust the education of their boys.
But the use of tobacco reaches far beyond the home circle and the schools and even pollutes the atmosphere of the church itself. There are few clergymen in the United States who do not use tobacco, and so a clean father who rears a clean son is under the tragic necessity of urging his attendance at a dirty church, and later on sending him to be a student in a dirty college, for the simple reason that there are no clean ones.
Society seems to have been viciously organized for the destruction of the boy, in whom lies its chief hope of preservation and improvement. The boy who keeps clean does so against tremendous odds, to which frequently his father, his school-teacher, and his clergyman are the chief contributors.
A dozen times during every day of his life he is subjected to the third degree of temptation, and twice out of three times this ordeal is thrust upon him by the very persons who really should do most to safeguard and protect him. And now that society has set its sanction upon the use of tobacco by the women of the nation, the boy is confronted with the further peril of a mother who smokes. It seems to me that this tobacco question detracts enormously from that very vivid hope we might feel for the rising generation, which is also handicapped with alcohol and drugs.
Many men were prejudiced against smoking until they went to college. There they found themselves 'out of it' because they did not smoke. More than that, they found that the smoke of social gatherings irritated their eyes and throat, and they thought that smoking might keep them from finding other people's smoke annoying. A man who had left off smoking told me that at the first 'smoker' he attended afterward he
found the air offensive and his eyes smarting intolerably, altho when he had been helping to create the clouds in which they were sitting he had not noticed it at all. These two experiences are common.
For the above-mentioned reason, the social inducements to smoking are considerably greater than those to drinking. The man who refuses to drink may feel as much 'out of it' as the man who refuses to smoke, but he has ordinarily, and in the presence of gentlemen, no other penalty to pay. He undergoes no discomfort in spending the evening in a roomful of drinkers, and he can manage to find things to drink that will have for them the semblance of good-fellowship. It is the social features that attend the acquiring and the leaving-off the habit which make smoking difficult to attack. In its present state, even if a boy were thoroly familiarized in school with the harm tobacco would do to him, he would still be seduced by the social side of it. When a habit fosters or traditionally accompanies social intercourse, it is all the harder to uproot.
The relation of tobacco, especially in the form of cigarettes, and alcohol and opium is a very close one. For years I have been dealing with alcoholism and morphinism, have gone into their every phase and aspect, have kept careful and minute details of between six and seven thousand cases, and I have never seen a case, except occasionally with women, which did not have a history of excessive tobacco.
A boy always starts smoking before he starts drinking. If he is disposed to drink, that disposition will be increased by smoking, because the action of tobacco makes it normal for him to feel the need of stimulation. He is likely to go to alcohol to soothe the muscular unrest, to blunt the irritation he has received from tobacco. The nervous condition due to excessive drinking is allayed by morphine, just as the nervous condition due to excessive smoking is allayed by alcohol. Morphine is the legitimate consequence of alcohol, and alcohol is the legitimate consequence of tobacco. Cigarettes, drink, opium, is the logical and regular series.
I have spent a good deal of time in the Orient in the interest of those who were trying to subdue the opium evil, and I may add that there is in China to-day a flourishing American tobacco concern which has grown rich out of the sale of cigarettes. With the extremely cheap Chinese labor, the concern was able to sell twenty cigarettes for a cent of our money. Up to the beginning of this enterprise, which commenced about fifteen years ago, the Chinese had never used tobacco except in pipes, and in very minute quantities in rolling their own crude cigarettes. Now it is estimated that one-half of the cigarette consumption of the world is in China. In trying to lessen the opium evil, in which they have to a considerable extent succeeded, the Chinese are merely substituting the cigarette evil. It is well known to the confirmed opium-smoker that he needs less opium if he smokes cigarettes. The Chinese to-day are spending twice as much money for tobacco as for opium.
If any one thinks that China is the gainer by substituting the one drug habit for the other, I beg leave to differ with him. The opium-smoker smokes in private with other smokers, and is thus not offensive to other people. He is not injuring non-smokers, or arousing the curiosity of boys, or polluting the atmosphere, or creating a craving in others. In the West the opium habit is generally condemned because the West is able to look with a new and unbiased mind on a drug habit that is not its own.
I consider that cigarette-smoking is the greatest vice devastating humanity to-day, because it is doing more than any other vice to deteriorate the race.
In the May issue, the Editor of this magazine wrote an editorial on Elbert Hubbard and Quackery; the charges he makes may all be true, but it should not be forgotten that Hubbard deserves the nation's gratitude for writing The Cigarettist. I close this article with Hubbard's words: 'Place no confidence in the cigarettist—he is an irresponsible being—a defective. Love him if you can; pity him if you will, but give him no chance to clutch you with his nicotine fingers and drag you beneath the wave.'