Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tobacco "Habits" Through History, Part I

Today, as every year, the American Cancer Society hosts a nationwide "Great American Smokeout." The idea is to encourage smokers to quit, if only for the day. Take note, I am not promoting smoking, non-smoking, or anything like that. That being said, I find this to be a wonderful opportunity to examine Kentucky's strong historical ties to tobacco - it's fed our economy (and still does, to an extent), and fostered and influenced a great deal of social and cultural growth, whether we realize it or not.

See as how there are so many angles and newspaper clippings to examine, I am going to post 2 blog entries today (aren't you a lucky bunch!). And, in honor of the "Great American Smokeout," I am going to generally focus on health and social perspectives, rather than the economic side (although, I promise, if you go to KDL newspapers and search "tobacco," you will find more newspaper clippings and excerpts regarding economic impact, farming traditions, unions, and so on, than you probably ever wanted to know!). Here, in part I, we're going to look at the more straightforward expressions from KY newspapers.

Cigarettes grew popular partially due to their convenience, and the flavorings used with the tobacco; they generally replaced chewing tobacco by World War I. However, they also came with negatives, such as coughing "fits" and other ailments (the 1904 American Baptist below mentions "insanity!"). People recognized a potential fatal connection with smoking, and cigarettes adopted the nickname "coffin straws" (called "coffin scraws" in this 1900 Adair County News clipping).

Much like contemporary times, people still debated the PRECISE effects of tobacco use. This ranged anywhere from what exactly was it that made tobacco harmful (this 1906 Breckenridge News clipping claims it's the tar rather than nicotine), to how to cut down on harmful effects (as per studies from German "experts," according to this 1904 Bourbon News article).

Throughout the years, one thing that seems to never change is hearing about harmful health effects of one vice or another from "the experts." They may change their mind later, or studies may uncover a different "unknown factor," but this is what we should beware of now! Sometimes, people heed these warnings as they come, but sometimes, as this elaborated book advertisement from the 1904 Bourbon News suggests, you just need to follow your gut - AKA Mother Nature's "Whack" (though it seems to almost reference "expert advice" a bit - my own personal opinion!). Of course, in any case, even back in 1903, there existed products, like "NO-TO-BAQ" to help you quit your habit, if you so chose.

Coming this afternoon: Part II, more "creative" expressions regarding health & social perspectives toward tobacco...

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