No Smoking in Antiquity

I’ve been slowly reading a History of Rome over the past month or two. It’s fascinating, and it’s regularly sent me off searching online for ancient fortresses like the acropolis of Corinth, or the Lacinian promontory on the toe of Italy to which Hannibal eventually retreated after terrorizing Italy for years, or a battlefield like the Caudine Forks. It’s amazing that they all still exist, and probably look not much different than they did over 2000 years ago.

For us moderns, since we rediscovered it, the Ancient world has very much been the model of how things should be done. Until recently, if you wanted to make an architectural statement, you built something like a Greek temple. You find them all over the place: the British museum in London looks a bit like a Greek temple. And the Madeleine in Paris too. And if it’s not a Greek temple, then it’s a Roman basilica, with arches and domes. Or a circus or an amphitheatre. Or even an Olympic stadium. And you adorned your Greek temple with marble statues of Ariadne and Apollo and Neptune and so on.

When oil multi-millionaire J Paul Getty built a museum in Malibu, it wasn’t a steel and glass skyscraper, but a Roman villa.

And apart from building classical villas and amphitheatres and temples and decorating them with marble sculptures, you’d also read classical literature. You’d study Aristotle and Plato, and read the poetry of Ovid and Catullus, and the histories of Livy. You might even speak a bit of Latin, and maybe a smattering Greek as well. Cave canem, hoi polloi, and all that.

And when you were fighting wars, you’d hope to emulate the great generals of antiquity, like Alexander and Pyrrhus and Hannibal. Even today, Hannibal’s encirclement and annihilation of about eight Roman legions at Cannae in southern Italy is cited as perhaps one of the greatest battles in history. Yet nobody knows where the battlefield is now. Same with the Caudine Forks, actually.

And if you’ve spent your days immersed in that Greek and Roman world, and come to idealise Alexander and Caesar and Socrates and Euripides and Ovid and Virgil, one thing you would probably have noticed was that, in the ancient world, nobody smoked. 

Not even Hannibal smoked. No, sir, not at all. Not even extra mild Silk Cut.

Smoking was not part of that idealised antiquity. When Julius Caesar landed in Britain, and said, “Veni! Vidi! Vici!” he didn’t then proceed to light up a Marlboro. And when Cleopatra unrolled herself from the carpet in which she had been carried into Caesar’s chamber in Alexandria, she didn’t jump up and say, “I brought you some baccy.” And when Propertius was composing poetry to Golden Cynthia, he wasn’t furiously smoking roll-ups as he pounded away on his typewriter. No.

Look at the sculpture of Laocoon and his sons above. Laocoon isn’t smoking. Neither are his sons. You don’t find busts of Pompey or Crassus with fags stuck in their mouths either. Nor even Tutankhamen in Ancient Egypt pulling on a gasper.

Even if you watch a movie like Gladiator (with Russell Crowe), Maximus doesn’t smoke. Neither does Marcus Aurelius. Nor Commodus. Nor anyone else. There was No Smoking in Antiquity. No, really.

So anyone with a classical appreciation for beauty and order is likely to be offended by the intrusion of cigarettes and clouds of smoke. It’s not right. It doesn’t fit into the classical order of things – a reborn classical order which has shaped Western culture ever since the Renaissance. You’d no more expect Julius Caesar to have smoked cigarettes than you would have expected him to ride a motorbike or carry a mobile phone. He might have slaughtered thousands of enemy soldiers, and crucified pirates, and so on. But that’s only to be expected. It’s the sort of thing the Romans actually did, after all. But smoke cigarettes? No way.

And today I was thinking that this might be why there’s such extreme aversion to smoking: it doesn’t fit with a classical ideal of Greek temples and marble statues and heroic battles. It’s not part of that aesthetic sensibility. And if you have such a sensibility, or even the faintest pretensions of one, and you wish to emulate the Greeks and Romans, you don’t smoke. Alexander didn’t. Caesar didn’t. And you mustn’t either.

And you must exercise regularly at the gymnasium. And you must take lots of baths just like the Romans did. And you must tan yourself light Roman brown, just like Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur. Because that’s culture – proper culture. None of this modern tat.

Yet Ancient Rome was probably as smoky as Manchester during the industrial revolution. There was probably a haze of smoke over it that was as bad as any London smog. Particularly in winter, when there’d be fires burning in the hearths of every house. When Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, on the ides of March, it was probably freezing in Rome, and it was through smoky Roman streets that he was carried in his litter to the Senate meeting in the theatre of Pompey, which was itself filled with smoke from fires lit to warm it – and to help conceal the assassins waiting with daggers drawn. And when he was dead, his body was incinerated on a heap of furniture in the forum. I bet they don’t allow that sort of thing in Rome these days. Not even for an historical re-enactment. Health and safety – or salute e sicurezza – would arrive in minutes to douse the flames.

I think that if I was going to make a movie about Hannibal at the battle of Cannae, I’d insist that he chain-smoked Navy Cut throughout the whole battle, and rode around on a Harley-Davidson between his elephants barking out orders into an Apple iPhone IV. The Romans – like the consul Varro – would all speak authentic Latin, but Hannibal would speak English with a broad Yorkshire accent. And when the battle was over, and he’d won, he’d sit smoking with his lieutenants, and wiping the blood off, and drinking tea from Wedgwood teacups, with his little finger sticking out, like so.

And then all these classical scholars might start to entertain the idea that people back then smoked just as much as anyone does now, and that’s it not that smoking was only invented three or four centuries ago, as if fire was only discovered in the 16th century by Christopher Columbus, and nobody had ever, ever thought to set fire to dried leaves or incense before then, or light them from the smoky oil lamps that burned in every house in Greece and Rome.

Above all, maybe they’d learn that history is as much an imaginative reconstruction – a kind of fiction – as it is uncertain historical fact.

About Frank Davis

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48 Responses to No Smoking in Antiquity

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank the greeks of today I gather ae probably the heaviest volume of smokers in Europe…….and its probably smoking that will help save it from total collapse. Isnt tourism Greeces main comodity! Isnt a smoking paradise a greater tourist attraction than simply looking upon antiquities! It brings in smoking dollars which in turn bring in revenue for the government and the hospitality industry that caters to those tourists……..

    But hey, in America the Owebama group has financed anti-tobacco with tax dollars for the last 4 years and its about all dried up…….the cities passing bans still are no doubt recieving some sort of bailout promise from owebama! We just havent found it yet other than millions in grants but not directly tied to actual bailout grants,but we are sure its in the mix.

    Take this headline just now:

    Obama’s Budget to Add $4.4 Trillion to Debt in Next Four Years
    On track to $20 trillion in debt in 2016.

    The interest on 20 trillion is 1 Trillion and the Federal govmnt only hauls in 2 trillion in taxes a year!

    It means its over……kaput bankrupt! It cant possibly continue at its present rate of borrowing and printing just to keep the social programs and health fanatacism financed. It means that shortly in the next months or even year or so it has to end. By end I mean massive layoffs,cutbacks, totally thrown away healthism projects, ABOLISHMENT!

    Then what do we see on the Horizon that makes BILLIONS in revenue! Tobacco ………….

    Its a sure bet,smoking is on its way back and as a savior to the government!

    Heres to sending the smoking bans into antiquity,its the only way I ever want to see them again.

  2. Budvar says:

    I seem to recall that “Scientists” doing work on Egyptian mummies had found traces of both “Coca” and “Tobacco” on newly discovered mummies (So no cross contamination). The theory goes that the Egyptians were trading with the new world long before Columbus.

    My theory is it was probably grown in Asia, brought back by the original inhabitants of America (They being of Asian decent after all).

    So it’s likely they smoked, probably using a pipe as opposed to rolling using papyrus rizlas, but that is purely speculation.

    I like the idea of Hannibal being a Yorkshireman, using a smattering of words like “Sithee”, the glotteral “T'” in place of the word “The” and having a penchant for bitter with a head on it, a couple of whippets, a loft of homing pigeons to keep in contact with the troops and a ferret or 2 about his person….

    • Rose says:

      “Nicotiana africana is a species of plant in the Solanaceae family. It is endemic to Namibia. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and rocky areas.”

      “The recent discovery of Nicotiana africana Merxm. extended the known natural distribution of the genus to another continent and generated considerable interest in this geographically isolated species. The chromosome complement (2n = 46) consists of two metacentric pairs and 21 pairs of acrocentrics. Four pairs organize nucleoli, but only two pairs have visible secondary constrictions. The distribution of heterochromatin and the karyotype show similarities with species of the Australian section of the genus, Suaveolentes, to which N. africana is related, and also to some American species”

  3. a smattering of words like “Sithee”, the glotteral “T’” in place of the word “The” and having a penchant for bitter with a head on it, a couple of whippets, a loft of homing pigeons to keep in contact with the troops and a ferret or 2 about his person….


    • Budvar says:

      Ah yes, picture the scene, Hannibal in his tent surrounded by his Generals outside the gates of Rome. Unfurls his battle plans on the table, whilst handing out the “Regal”, Hannibal says “Sithee Caesar, tha’s gunna get thee arse kicked tomorra”.

      Cast wise, Sean Bean seems a shoe in for Hannibal, but then again some one more Alan Bennett or Tom Courtenay could pull it off. Not sure of the Romans speaking Latin mind, but those of a more “Cockney” persuasion like Danny Dyer, Ray Winstone or Terrance Stamp would give it a more of a north/south divide aspect..

      I feel a screen play coming on…

      • Slight anachronism with Caesar there. The principal Roman generals facing Hannibal were Fabius Cunctator and Scipio Africanus. But nevermind.

        And is it ‘shoe in’? I don’t use the term very much, but I’d write it ‘shoo in’. Perhaps it needs some investigation. It’s a bit like ‘here, here’ versus ‘hear, hear’.

        Sean Bean’s definitely the man. I loved all those Sharp episodes. And his Irish sidekick with the double-barrelled musket. And the Romans all with plummy southern accents, and soft smooth hands, talking about ‘what Mummy says’.

        • Budvar says:

          I always thought it was “Shoe in” as in got your foot in the door. Whereas “Shoo in” appears to be an Americanism for a fixed horse race. Either way, the meaning would appear to be the same.
          Harpers weapon was a 7 barreled “Nock volley gun”. I believe it was developed for Naval officers, to deter mutinies…


        • Frank Davis says:

          Definitely needs investigation, this shoe-in, shoo-in thing.

          And Harper. That was his name. Did it really have 7 barrels? A veritable Gatling gun.

  4. waltc says:

    OT. Or yesterday’s T. I admit to being bleary and a little blotto from slaving over a hot screen all day (all week in fact) but did I miss something about reporting the survey? Like: what’s the site we go to? and How do we log on?

  5. Rose says:

    No smoking in history? Not so sure of that. Plenty of incense burning though.

    It’s not usual that a pdf goes missing and can’t even be found by the Wayback Machine.
    Good thing I copied it out.

    Medicinal Smoke Reduces Airborne Bacteria – 2007

    “This study represents a comprehensive analysis and scientific validation of our ancient knowledge about the effect of ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products’ smoke for therapy and health care on airborne bacterial composition and dynamics, using the Biolog® microplate panelsand Microlog® database.

    In this study, we have designed an air sampler for microbiological air sampling during the treatment of the room with medicinal smoke. In addition, elimination of the aerial pathogenic bacteria due to the smoke is reported too.

    We have observed that 1 h treatment of medicinal smoke emination by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri = material used in oblation to fire all over India) on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 h in the closed room.

    Absence of pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, Pseudomonassyringae pv. persicae, Staphylococcus lentus, and Xanthomonas campestris pv. tardicrescens inthe open room even after 30 days is indicative of the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment.

    We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.
    Work has implications to use the smoke generated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferousand medicinal herbs, within confined spaces such as animal barns and seed/grain warehouses to disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner.
    Work indicates that certain known medicinal constituents from the havan sámagri can thus be added to the burning farm material while disposing unwanted agriculture organic material, in order to reduce plant pathogenicorganisms.

    In particular, it highlights the fact that we must think well beyond the physical aspects of smoke on plants in natural habitats and impacts heavily on our understanding of fire as adriving force in evolution.
    We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to contain diverse pathogenic bacteria of the air we breathe.

    The work also highlights the fact about medicinal smoke and that a lot of natural products have potential for use as medicine in the smoke form as a form of drug delivery and as a promising source of new active natural ingredients for containing indoor airborne infections within confined spaces used for storage of agriculture comodities.

    The dynamic chemical and biological interactions occurring in the atmosphere are much more complex than has been previously realized. The findings warrant a need for further evaluation of various ingredients present in the complex mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs, individually and in various combinations to identify the active principlesinvolved in the bactericidal property of the medicinal smoke, applied in the above discussed fashion.”
    Formerly http: //


    Medicinal smokes

    “All through time, humans have used smoke of medicinal plants to cure illness.
    To the best of our knowledge, the ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products’ smoke for therapy and health care have not been studied.
    Mono- and multi-ingredient herbal and non-herbal remedies administered as smoke from 50 countries across the 5 continents are reviewed.

    Most of the 265 plant species of mono-ingredient remedies studied belong to Asteraceae (10.6%), followed by Solanaceae (10.2%), Fabaceae (9.8%) and Apiaceae (5.3%). The most frequent medical indications for medicinal smoke are pulmonary (23.5%), neurological (21.8%) and dermatological (8.1%).

    Other uses of smoke are not exactly medical but beneficial to health, and include smoke as a preservative or a repellent and the social use of smoke.

    The three main methods for administering smoke are inhalation, which accounts for 71.5% of the indications; smoke directed at a specific organ or body part, which accounts for 24.5%; ambient smoke (passive smoking), which makes up the remaining 4.0%. Whereas inhalation is typically used in the treatment of pulmonary and neurological disorders and directed smoke in localized situations, such as dermatological and genito-urinary disorders, ambient smoke is not directed at the body at all but used as an air purifier.

    The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production. This review highlights the fact that not enough is known about medicinal smoke and that a lot of natural products have potential for use as medicine in the smoke form.

    Furthermore, this review argues in favor of medicinal smoke extended use in modern medicine as a form of drug delivery and as a promising source of new active natural ingredients”

    • Rose says:

      Validation of smoke inhalation therapy to treat microbial infections. – 2008

      Braithwaite M, Van Vuuren
      “In traditional healing, the burning of selected indigenous medicinal plants and the inhalation of the liberated smoke are widely accepted and a practiced route of administration.
      This study elucidated the rationale behind this commonly practiced treatment by examining the antimicrobial activity for five indigenous South African medicinal plants commonly administered through inhalation (Artemisia afra, Heteropyxis natalensis, Myrothamnus flabellifolius, Pellaea calomelanos and Tarchonanthus camphoratus).

      An apparatus was designed to simulate the burning process that occurs in a traditional setting and the smoke fraction was captured for analysis and bioassay. Methanol and acetone extracts as well as the essential oil (for the aromatic species) were prepared and assayed in parallel with the smoke fraction.

      Antimicrobial data revealed that in most cases, the ‘smoke-extract’ obtained after burning had lower minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values than the corresponding solvent extracts and essential oils. The combustion, acetone and methanol extracts produced different chromatographic profiles as demonstrated for Pellaea calomelanos where several compounds noted in the smoke fraction were not present in the other extracts.

      These results suggest that the combustion process produces an ‘extract’ with superior antimicrobial activity and provides in vitro evidence for inhalation of medicinal smoke as an efficient mode of administration in traditional healing”

      • Rose says:

        Validation of smoke inhalation therapy to treat microbial infections

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          So smoking in the house not only kills germs but acts as sort of vaporizer.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Miss Rose I just had a brain fart.

          The fastest transmitter of viruses is via air travel. Just saw this on Tv news out of Nashville via some doctor they had on…….

          Do we have a charted study anywhere showing increases in viral diseases in comparison to when smoking was banned on air flights……..pre and post ban! Itd be something like the heart attack studies in comparison and possibly a real killer study linking it to the unsafer air in air craft cabins due to non-smoking.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Virus outbreak: Air travel fears –…/mystery.flu_1_virus-outbreak-sars-mystery-virus…Cached
        You +1’d this publicly. Undo
        Mar 25, 2003 – Health officials in several Asian countries are taking unprecedented steps to try to stop the spread of a potentially deadly pneumonia virus amid …
        New air travel virus alerts –…/asia.sars_1_patients-with-sars-symptoms-biggest-s…Cached
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        Mar 28, 2003 – New air travel virus alerts … Several Asian nations are clamping down on travelers in an effort to curb the … Virus outbreak: Air travel fears …
        Urban Ebola: Why the Latest Outbreak in Uganda Raises Worries ……/urban-ebola-why-the-latest-outbrea…Cached
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        by Bryan Walsh – in 275 Google+ circles – More by Bryan Walsh

        Aug 1, 2012 – That’s why the latest Ebola outbreak in western Uganda, which has … But without roads and air travel, those viruses will mostly stay there.

        Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers – Chapter 3 – 2012 Yellow Book …
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        Air Travel Information For Travelers · 2011 Update on Measles for Air Travelers … transmission of some viruses can result in large human outbreaks. Specific …
        Human Infection with Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus: Advice for ……/human-infection-avian-flu-h5n1-advice-for…Cached
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        Mar 15, 2012 – Air & Cruise Ship Travel … 2011 Update on Measles for Air Travelers … on Commercial Aircraft Serving Haiti During the Cholera Outbreak …
        The 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) Outbreak: Selected Legal +1’d this publicly. Undo
        File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
        Recent human cases of infection with a novel influenza A(H1N1) virus have …… it is conceivable that a person presenting himself or herself for air travel with …
        Controlling Pandemic Flu: The Value of International Air Travel ……/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0000…Cached
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        by JM Epstein – 2007 – Cited by 83 – Related articles
        International air travel restrictions alone provide a small delay in FPT to the U.S. …. The exposed period is assumed to coincide with the viral incubation period, … However, in the early stages of an outbreak in a city, when very few exposed or …
        Disease surveillance and outbreak prevention and +1’d this publicly. Undo
        File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
        The occurrence of DHF outbreaks is linked to a number of factors, including … of dengue virus by the air travel of infected passengers over long distances has …
        Air travel fears virus outbreak –…/air-travel-fears-virus-outbreak.htmlYou +1’d this publicly. Undo
        Mar 30, 2012 – New steps in trying to end the spread of a pneumonia virus, which is potentially deadly, are being taken by health officials from many Asian …
        H1N1 virus spreads easily by – Similar
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        Jan 8, 2010 – “Clearly, it was air travel, by transporting infectious individuals from the … the spread of H1N1 during the outbreak last spring,” Coburn said.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        But weve already seen increases in the rate of asthma in children as the smoking rates declined . I believe its caused a weakening of immuno responces to stimuli in people across the board. We need exposures to keep us healthy!

        • Rose says:

          Well we have stopped sitting around the wood fires we have been using for around 1.3million years.

          But I’ve heard it explained by anti-tobacco that tobacco smoke weakens the immune system which is why all those smoking -related diseases are supposed to be caused by a bit of burning leaf. Of course they weren’t smoking-related until very recently in the scheme of things.

          “At the time of the Great Plague all kinds of nostrums were sold and recommended as preservatives or as cures. Most of these perished with the occasion that called them forth; but the names of some have been preserved in a rare quarto tract which was published in the Plague year, 1665, entitled “A Brief Treatise of the Nature, Causes, Signes,Preservation from and Cure of the Pestilence,” “collected by W. Kemp,Mr. of Arts.”

          In the list of devices for purifying infected air it is stated that “The American Silver-weed, or Tobacco, is very excellent for this purpose, and an excellent defence against bad air, being smoked in a pipe, either by itself, or with Nutmegs shred, and Rew Seeds mixed with it, especially if it be nosed”–which, I suppose, means if the smoke be exhaled through the nose–“for it cleanseth the air, and choaketh, suppresseth and disperseth any venomous vapour.”

          “When plague was abroad even children were compelled to smoke. At the time of the dreadful visitation of 1665 all the boys at Eton were obliged to smoke in school every morning.
          One of these juvenile smokers, a certain Tom Rogers, years afterwards declared to Hearne,the Oxford antiquary, that he never was whipped so much in his life as he was one morning for not smoking.
          Times have changed at Eton since this anti-tobacconist martyr received his whipping.
          It is sometimes stated that at this time smoking was generally practised in schools,and that at a stated hour each morning lessons were laid aside, and masters and scholars alike produced their pipes and proceeded to smoke tobacco. But I know of no authority for this wider statement; it seems to have grown out of Hearne’s record of the practice at Eton.

          The belief in the prophylactic power of tobacco was, however, very generally held.
          When Mr. Samuel Pepys on June 7, 1665, for the first time saw several houses marked with the ominous red cross, and the words “Lord, have mercy upon us” chalked upon the doors, he felt so ill at ease that he was obliged to buy some roll tobacco to smell and chew.

          There is nothing to show that Pepys even smoked, which considering his proficiency in the arts of good-fellowship, is perhaps a little surprising. Defoe, in his fictitious but graphic “Journal of the Plague Year in London,” says that the sexton of one of the London parishes, who personally handled a large number of the victims, never had the distemper at all, but lived about twenty years after it, and was sexton of the parish to the time of his death.
          This man, according to Defoe, “never used any preservative against the infection other than holding garlic and rue in his mouth, and smoking tobacco.”

          But now we use air fresheners and fly spray instead.

        • Rose says:

          Medical Uses of Tobacco Past and Present


          “Tobacco as a Prophylactic in Contagious Disease.
          Allen (1835) stated that Diemerbroeck [De peste, 1646] has usually been quoted as authority for the anticontagious character of tobacco.

          During the Great Plague in London in 1665, children were told to smoke in their school- rooms (Lancet 1: 1266-1267, 1902); and A Brief Abstract of the Virtues of the American Tobacco Plant (1783) records that buffers of the dead, in charge of dead-carts, at first used tobacco as a deodorizer, “little thinking that what they used for momentary relief would prove a constant preventive.

          When the Plague was happily stayed, the virtues of tobacco began to be investigated, and it was found that those persons who plentifully used it, either in smoking or in snuffing, had most wonderfully escaped the dire contagion: for though they’ visited the chambers of the sick, attended the funerals of cartloads at a time, they unexpectedly avoided the infection.”

          Although Allen in 1835 declared that this idea that tobacco operated as an antidote to contagious and infectious diseases was gratuitous and fallacious, the belief continued to play a role in public health for some time. It was reported in The Lancet (1: 201, 1882) that smallpox having appeared in the Bolton Workhouse, the Guardians resolved to issue tobacco freely to the inmates in order that the wards may be disinfected by the fumes. And, in another note in The Lancet (1 : 406, 1913) of a later date: “A good many years ago it was reported by the senior medical officer of Greenwich Workhouse that the tobacco smoking inmates enjoyed comparative immunity from epidemics, and tobacco-smoking was believed to have had the disinfectant action in cases of cholera and other infectious diseases. Again during a cholera epidemic at Hamburg it was reported that not a single workman engaged in the cigar factory in that city was attacked by the disease.

          Later it was stated that amongst a body of 5000 cigar makers only 8 cases and 4 deaths from cholera occurred. Subsequently experiments proved that tobacco smoke destroyed the bacilli of Asiatic Cholera as well as pneumonia.” This note in the Lancet apparently referred to the work of Visalli (1855) who found that tobacco smoke was capable of inhibiting the growth of the bacillus of Asiatic cholera; and indeed, Visalli himself concluded that, since the portal of entry of this bacillus is the mouth, tobacco smoke should have prophylactic value. It is a fact that workmen in tobacco factories are often cited as being immune from cholera and other epidemics.”

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Miss Rose thank you so much! I knew there was more to the story and now its really unfolding.

        • Rose says:

          Mind you, cooking over wood fires for millenia can’t have been good for the individuals most exposed.

          Indoor air pollution behind COPD, not smoking: study

          “You don’t have to be a smoker to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Indoor air pollution is enough for one to contract the infection, says the first-of-its-kind study conducted at 22 villages of Pune.

          Out of 3,000 people randomly selected for the study, 210 suffered from COPD. “At least 93 per cent of those who had COPD were non smokers,” says Dr Sundeep Salvi, coordinator of the Chest Research Foundation (CRF).”

          Here’s why.

          Your lungs at higher risk from wood smoke, dung cakes

          “Over 700 million people in India suffer from high levels of indoor air pollution affecting women and young children as 75 per cent homes use biomass fuel like wood, crop residue and dung cakes.”

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          contract the infection

          Yes I found that study last year on an Indian website but the intresting part is an infection!

          Infection implies being infected,is it fecal matter bacterial or what!

          I still dont buy the wood smoke theory as causative of their infection for copd.

          But knowing the squaller and filth these people live in and close proximity to each other along with bathing in filthy waters as a religous passing I would have looked at all matters in concerns for an infection as it would spread like wildfire and would surely point to a 94% non-smoker rate of copd. It would seem clear the study participants show an infection was going around and my question would then be were they tested for noro viruses and other communicable viral diseases to rule out those variables,likely not. However ADENO-14 virus was and still is prevalent around the world and a known cause of lung tissue damage in smoker or non.

        • Rose says:

          I can’t help thinking that “infection” was probably a mis-translation, leaning over an oven breathing incompletely burning wood or dung for hours every day would be quite enough on it’s own to damage your lungs, I would have thought.

        • nisakiman says:

          Fascinating stuff, Rose. I like Harley’s idea of finding figures for air travel infection pre and post ban, too.

          Re the COPD in India, it would seem that 94% of sufferers being non-smokers is quite significant. I’m not sure what smoking prevalence in India is, but when I was there in the 60s, it was a hell of a lot more than 6%. From memory, 60% would be closer!

          Whatever, it would seem likely that both smokers and non-smokers alike would have been squatting around those dung patty fires, and yet it was predominantly the non-smokers who suffered from COPD as a result……… Why?

        • smokingscot says:


          Otzi gives us the oldest verifiable example of what Europeans had to live with 4.5k years ago.

          Jean M Auel has a series of novels of people who lived in caves in France. Her research is based on findings and on cave paintings. We seldom appreciate how clued up they were about the natural world. They had a variety of very potent drinks; all based on fermentation and they knew the properties of pretty well every plant species.

          My suspicion is they used tobacco as an appetite suppressant because food was highly seasonal (Otzi almost died of starvation three times in his life). They may have used leaves to chew, or as a roll-up (as the still do in the Amazon to this day). However Auel goes into the role of shamans and their use of many herbs to burn that – effectively – left them stoned out their gourd!

          Seemingly they had to do that to commune with the animals they needed to hunt. Hey, if they got it wrong, they were dealt with pretty severely. The British Museum had one of those guys on display. Head caved in, garrotted, then chucked in a lake! Neat.

        • Rose says:


          I very much doubt that Otzi had access to tobacco.

          Lindow Man
          “He was struck on the top of his head twice with a heavy object, perhaps a narrow bladed axe. He also received a vicious blow in the back – perhaps from someone’s knee – which broke one of his ribs. He had a thin cord tied around his neck which may have been used to strangle him and break his neck. By now he was dead, but then his throat was cut. Finally, he was placed face down in a pool in the bog. This elaborate sequence of events suggests that his death may have been ritual killing”

          And he wasn’t the only one they found.
          Truly our ancestors have done some very weird things, but I’m sure they all made sense at the time.
          Anyway, on communing with animal spirits, if you had to hunt your lunch down with a spear wouldn’t you try to improve the odds?

        • smokingscot says:


          Sorry ’bout that.

          Otzi’s in there because the link tells of his smoke backened lungs, caused by soot.

          Auel’s there on the broader issue of natural stimulants; tobacco being one of many.

          Should have clarified.

  6. Margo says:

    I feel sure the Romans smoked. There are words and phrases in my Latin dictionary:
    eg for the phrase ‘he occasionally indulged in a pipe’ I see: ‘nicotianae usu interdum se delectavit’ (Pliny). That definitely means smoking for pleasure. There are also a couple of words for ‘pipe’ – tubus fictilis (an earthenware pipe), infurnibulum (for inhaling fumes medically). This is a dictionary printed in 1870. Maybe these words wouldn’t appear in a modern one?
    All over the ancient world, inhaling the smoke of herbs and plants was used to inspire, to heal, to induce trance or ecstasy. Apollo’s prophetess breathed in the smoke of the sacred laurel before she prophesied.
    And whenever I’ve seen a documentary about some tribe living deep in the rain forests or in an obscure part of Africa, on the edge of being wrecked by the modern world, I’ve noticed there are always smokers among them.

    • tubus fictilis, infurnibulum

      Where does Pliny write ‘nicotianae usu interdum se delectavit’? I thought that nicotine was named after a Frenchman called Nicot. Which would make it slightly improbable that Pliny could have written something like that.

      Investigation is called for.

      • Margo says:

        I don’t know where Pliny writes nicotianae usu interdum se delectavit: it’s in my dictionary and they don’t give the source!

        • Frank Davis says:

          It says that nicotiana was named after Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who sent some to Catherine de Medici.

          But then, maybe Pliny did write that?

        • Looks like it was Benedict de Spinoza (1622-1666) who may have written those words:


          P E B A

          Q l \ E SUPERSUNT OMNIA.

          X PRAEFATIO.

          Coof. ep. 30. ai ) Ibi saepe amicorum multitudine fuit cinctus
          (vid. ep. 9.) , quorum precibus denique permotus Hagam cessit
          auDO 1669. , ubi initio apud viduam van Feldenii habitavit, et ab
          a. \ 67 i. in domo Uenrici van der Spyck, pictoris haud ignobilis,
          ultimos vitae annos degit.

          De Spinozae honestate et virlute omniumestunanimisnarratio.
          Morum candore fuit et simplicitate f summa sobrietale el elegan-
          tia.**) In vitae consuetudine gratissimus, animi affectionum
          mirum in modum potens, animo tranquillo etiam in turbulentis
          vitae rationibus , ab ira et acerbitate prorsus remotus. Sermones
          eius erant suaves et inteUectu faciles, interdum humoregratomixti»
          Cum contubernalibus libenter collocutus est , tristes et infirmos
          consolatus Dei summam sapientiam et bonitatem ostendendo. 2S )
          Liberos et domeslicos admonuil ut parentibus el heris obedirent,
          omnes ut diligenter coetibus sacris interessent. Ipse Cordesium,
          praedicatorem ecclesiae evangelico-Lulheranae , hominem pium
          et venerabilem, Coleri antecessorem, nonnumquam audivit, sae-
          pius vero de oratione cum aliis ex ecclesia redeuntibus sermonem
          instituit. * 4 ) Meditationibus philosophicis defessus ut animum
          eihilararct, cum familiaribus de rebus minutissimis disseruit aut
          Nicotianae usu interdum se delectavit vel microscopiis insecta
          observavit. Yoluptatem honestam amavit, sed ad amicorum
          convivia invitatus modicc edil et bibit , uti domi solebat. Opes
          parvi duxit. Multorum fautorum stipem recusavit. Simon de
          Vrie* „amicus eius inlegerrimus” quum ei 2000 florenorum dono

  7. Classics fan says:

    Herodotus records the Scythians jumping over bonfires of cannabis leaves. :)

    • Rose says:

      “Though not an agricultural society, Scythians benefited from crops the fertile plains offered. Among them: hemp. Herodotus, in The Histories, details one use:

      On a framework of three sticks, meeting at the top, they stretch pieces of woolen cloth, taking care to get the joint as perfect as they can, and inside this little tent they put a dish with red-hot stones in it. Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on to the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour-bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much that they howl with pleasure. This is their substitute for an ordinary bath in water, which they never use.”

      Sounds more like a sweat lodge to me.

    • nisakiman says:

      Heh! I can think of better ways! Those Scythians are mad…

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    Couldnt happen to a nastier man!

    Armstrong facing loss of 7 Tour de France titles after giving up fight against doping charges

    AUSTIN, Texas – Never one to back away from a fight, Lance Armstrong is finally giving in and the cost of quitting is steep: His seven Tour de France titles could be gone as soon as Friday.

    The superstar cyclist, whose stirring victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, chose not to pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That was his last option in his bitter fight with USADA and his decision set the stage for the titles to be stripped and his name to be all but wiped from the record books of the sport he once ruled.

    Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, left no doubt that was the next step. He said Armstrong would lose the titles as soon as Friday and be hit with a lifetime ban, even though he is retired and turning 41 next month.

    Tygart said the UCI, the sport’s governing body, was “bound to recognize our decision and impose it” as a signer of the World Anti-Doping Code.

    “They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code,” he said.

    On Friday, the International Cycling Union said not so fast. The UCI, which had backed Armstrong’s legal challenge to USADA’s authority, cited the same World Anti-Doping Code in saying that it wanted the USADA to explain why Armstrong should lose his titles.

    The UCI said the code requires this in cases “where no hearing occurs.”

  9. harleyrider1978 says:

    Court upholds block on graphic cigarette warnings
    By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM, Associated Press
    August 24, 2012
    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a decision barring the federal government from requiring tobacco companies to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that the requirement ran afoul of the First Amendment’s free speech protections. The appeals court tossed out the requirement and told the Food and Drug Administration to go back to the drawing board.

    Some of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., sued to block the mandate to include warnings to show the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit lighting up.

    They argued that the proposed warnings went beyond factual information into anti-smoking advocacy. The government argued the photos of dead and diseased smokers are factual. … e-warnings

  10. garyk30 says:

    One might think that there was no smoking in the 20th century.
    Churchill’s portraits and statutes do not show him with his beloved cigars.
    Also FDR and Eisenhower with their cigs..
    There have been millions of smoking teens that are not portrayed with a cigarette in their graduation pictures.

    A pipe would be a very fragile item to sculpt on a marble piece.

    Snus, snuff, or dip tobacco would hardly show.

    Everyone back then might have used tobacco and we would never know.

    • churchmouse says:

      Even going back to the 19th century with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who gave the UK the railways. His famous cigar is often omitted from his photographs. Yet, that was his trademark.

  11. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank you might find this interesting

    Obama asks eurozone to keep Greece in until after election day
    US officials are worried that if Greece exits the eurozone, it will damage President’s election hopes

  12. garyk30 says:

    A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that cigarette companies do not need to comply with new federal rules requiring their products to show graphic warning images, such as of a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his throat.

    The govt says the images are factual.

    But, are they telling the whole truth and only the truth?

    Such a graphic warning might lead you to think that throat cancer is very common and a serious health problem.

    It might also lead you to think that smokers have no chance of not getting throat cancer.

    Here is what Doll’s Doctor Study says about the deaths from mouth/throat(M/T) cancers.

    Never-smokers(N/S) = 0.09 deaths per 1,000 per year
    Current smokers(C/S) = 0.60 deaths per 1,000 people per year

    Total Deaths = 0.69 deaths per 2,000 people per year.

    That is a rate of 3/100ths of 1% per year.
    A very, very low rate!!!!
    99.97% did NOT die from M/T cancer per year.

    This is a very rare disease!!!!

    Now, let’s compare smokers to never-smokers and NOT dying from M/T Cancer per year per 1,000.

    C/S vs N/S = 999.4 vs 999.91

    1 vs 1.0005

    For every 1 C/S that did not die, there will only be 1.0005 N/S that do not die from M/T Cancer.

    C/S’s have the same chance of not having M/T Cancer as do N/S’s.

    Now, let’s compare smokers to never-smokers and NOT dying from M/T Cancer per year per 1,000 for the other diseases said to be ’caused’ by smoking.

    We will see that smokers have almost exactly the same chance as never-smokers of NOT DYING from those diseases!!!!

    C/S vs N/S

    M/T Cancer = 1 vs 1.0005
    Lung Cancer = 1 vs 1.002

    Other Cancers = 1 vs 1.001

    COPD = 1 vs 1.001

    Diseases = 1 vs 1.001

    Heart Attack = 1 vs 1.004

    Stroke = 1 vs 1.001

    Other Heart
    Diseases = 1 vs 1.001

  13. lysistratatheoriginal says:

    *waves* Hi Frank. Just got back from being away and notice you have 40 comments on this, most of them (in length at least) from Harvey.

    No the classical Greeks didn’t smoke ‘cos tobacco hadn’t travelled over there back then. But they would have if they could have, for sure.

    And in terms of animal sacrifice, they concluded that what the gods really liked, being gods and all spirit-like, was the actual smoky delicious smell rising to heaven from the roasting animals, and not the roasted meat itself. So they sacrificed the animals and cooked them, letting the cooking smells waft up to heaven, and then ate the delicious roasted meat themselves.

    Very practical, these Greeks.

  14. Fredrik Eich says:

    I have finally found the time to produce a chart that I would have contributed to the CATCH debates had I the time then. Then, I was a little annoyed because I could not post a link to a chart that only existed in my head – but now it exists online and so I can link to it. I believe it contradicts the notion that the continuing rise of female lung cancer in the UK is due to the number of female smokers decades ago and in addition adds further to the evidence that contradicts the notion that smoker prevelance and cigarette consumption drives lung cancer rates.

  15. Mira says:

    I was thinking if Julius Caesar survived his assassination. The funny thing that I even found an essay about that.

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