Thursday, June 20, 2013

From 1938: "Tobacco is a factor in the alarming insanity rate"

Pictured above is a somewhat alarming illustration from the 1938 book "Science Speaks to Young Men on Liquor, Tobacco, Narcotics, and Marijuana" by Dr. George Thomason.

The author quotes a number of authorities regarding the effects of tobacco upon the mind:
  • Dr. Alvin Davidson, Professor of Biology at Lafayette College: "Tobacco prevents the development of brain cells, and results in a slow, dull mind."
  • Dr. Saylor of Saylor's Sanitarium: "I am not a faddist, but I say if a campaign of education relating to cigarette smoking is not entered into soon, it won't be long before we have a race of idiots."
And the author, Thomason, concludes:
"Insanity, representing degeneracy of the brain tissues and cells, is increasing at an appalling rate. There is scarcely a state in the United States that has been able to furnish the necessary additional facilities for caring for this class of patients fast enough to keep pace with the constantly increasing numbers. There are now over four hundred thousand persons confined in asylums in this country because of insanity. ... There is no question but that tobacco is one of the factors in the increase of this frightful malady."
While Thomason and other doctors might have been off-base in linking tobacco with mental illness, they were ahead of their time in launching an assault upon the nation's heavy usage of tobacco. That usage continued to increase in the following decades, and there was certainly no public stigma regarding cigarettes, as evidenced by mid-century advertising.

Of course, the identification and treatment of mental-health issues in the United States today remains a whole nother story.

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