The opinion that tobacco is injurious to the young and apparently harmless to adults, quoted in these pages recently from American Medicine, is adjudged by the editor of Good Health (Battle Creek, Mich., December) to be one of those half-truths which Tennyson tells us are "ever the blackest lies".
He agrees heartily with the first part of it, but asserts that no respectable medical authority will be found to endorse the other half of it. Has the editor of American Medicine, he asks, never heard of tobacco blindness? And how about cancer of the lip and of the throat, diseases almost confined to smokers? Bouchard, of Paris, an authority on diseases of the heart and bloodvessels, names tobacco, the writer goes on to say, as one of the leading causes of this deadly class of maladies. And this is by no means a new idea. Medical examiners tell us that nine tenths of the rejected applicants for the Army are refused on account of tobacco-heart. We read further:
"King Edward died of tobacco-heart. Mark Twain was another victim of this disease. A king of Hungary fell off his horse some time ago and lost his life because of defective vision due to smoking. The death-rate from disease of the heart and blood-vessels has increased, within the last ten years, from 6 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000 or 400 per cent. Is there no evidence from these facts that it is not 'harmless to adults'?
"No experienced coach will allow men in training for athletic events to make use of tobacco, so well known are its effects upon the heart. A well-known physician said to the writer just before the Yale-Harvard boat-race: ' I am sure Yale will be beaten, for the coach permits the men to use tobacco.'
"The ill effects of tobacco upon the kidneys are familiar to all physicians. Statistics gathered some years ago showed that 10 per cent, of all smokers have albumen in the urine. The physician forbids the use of tobacco or very greatly restricts its use in cases of Bright's disease.
"But even on a priori grounds it may be safely said that tobacco is anything but harmless. The deadly effects of tobacco are well enough known. In very minute doses nicotin produces deadly effects. One tenth of a grain killed a goat, and a much smaller dose killed a frog. The farmer uses tobacco leaves and stems to kill ticks on sheep. An eminent German botanist has recently shown that tobacco, even in minute quantities, produces pernicious effects on plants.
"Numerous investigators have shown that pigeons are proof against anthrax, a disease very deadly to sheep. Charrin showed that after giving to a pigeon a very small dose of nicotin the creature quickly dies when infected with the anthrax germ.
"Doctor Wright, of London, showed that nicotin lowers the tuberculo-opsonic index of the blood; that is, it lowers the power of resistance of the body against tuberculosis. He cited the case of a young man who was a great smoker and whose tuberculo-opsonic index was zero instead of 100. The young man was suffering from tuberculosis and died within a few weeks.
"Post-mortem examination made at the Phipps Institute showed that smokers are twice as subject to tuberculosis as non-smokers".
These are only a few of the thousand facts, the writer goes on, that might be cited on his side of the question. Nothing in them shows that there is any distinction between the child and the adult, and the fact that the effects are often less apparent in the latter is due, we are told, solely to the fact that they possess greater vital resistance than children. Finally, he remarks:
"We would remind the editor to review the study of physiologic chemistry and pathology, and consult a few up-to-date standard works on the practice of medicine in relation to the cause of Bright's disease, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris and other maladies involving the heart and blood-vessels, the death-rate from which has kept even pace along with the increase of tobacco during the last thirty or forty years".
Some of our best authorities tell us that more than half of our diseases, mental and physical, come from ignorance and consequent abuse of our sexual powers.
We have long known and realized vaguely that virtue and strength are synonymous; that the Puritan fathers, for example, notwithstanding their narrowness and their unlovely lives, were upon the whole a people of pure life, who reaped their reward in their wonderful mental, moral, and physical strength, not entirely gone to-day.
All men realize the desirability of virtue; and hitherto we have attempted to keep our young people virtuous by keeping them ignorant. Most thinking men to-day admit and maintain that as a protection ignorance is a sad failure.
It is far better for the parent to teach the child the truth - the sacred truth - by degrees, as he or she is ready for it. Most children are ready at seven or eight to know something about the process of procreation, especially if they live on a farm where they see it all about them.
No boy is any the worse for learning of these things. All are better for knowing them.
Rest assured of this, more nations have been wiped out by sex abuse than by bloody war. The nation that does not bring up its youth with pure ideals is certainly going to destruction.
Every leader of boys should talk frankly to his charges and read to them or have them read:
"From Youth Into Manhood," by Dr. Winfield S. Hall. Y. M. C. A. Press, 124 East Twenty-eighth Street, New York.