Smoking and Tobacco


In 1964, the pro-smoking, German scientist Helmuth Aschenbrenner argued that anti-smokers were suffering from 'pyrophobia,' or fear of fire. Specifically, they were suffering from 'fear of the 'big fire' or atom bomb."

Details from Robert Proctor in The Nazi War on Cancer (1997):

After the war, Helmuth Aschenbrenner continued on as secretary general of the International Association for Scientific Tobacco Research. In the March 1964 issue of the London journal World Tobacco, the Bremen tobacco apologist is cited suggesting that "before reports on smoking and health are taken seriously [the reference is to the 1964 U.S. surgeon general's report], those making the reports should have psychiatric certification that they are not suffering from pyrophobia (fear of fire)." Aschenbrenner is taken to have proven that "tobacco antagonism often springs from a morbid (and often unconscious) pyrophobia—a phenomenon whose many manifestations include suppressed fear of the 'big fire' or atom bomb." See "International Perspective on Smoking and Health," World Tobaco, March 1964, pp. 19-20.

On a somewhat unrelated note, here's a news item from 1981 about a young woman who was also suffering from fear of the 'big fire'.

Vancouver Sun - June 22, 1981

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 28, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Bad Habits, Neuroses and Psychoses, Smoking and Tobacco

Sergeant Sunshine

Scott French, The Complete Guide to the Street Drug Game (1976):

One of the heroes of the Hashbury days was Sergeant Sunshine, a San Francisco cop who became upset at a system where you could easily buy a gun but get arrested for smoking a harmless vegetable. On April 14, 1968, Sgt. Richard Bergess demonstrated his feelings by lighting up a joint on the courthouse steps. Hippies threw a carpet of flowers before the cop, who was promptly arrested by agents in the crowd. Needless to say, this was Sgt. Bergess' last day with the San Francisco police.

He served six months in jail, and subsequently became a plumber.

Posted By: Alex - Sun May 22, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Drugs, Smoking and Tobacco, Police and Other Law Enforcement, 1960s

Toothache-Killer Cigarettes

Los Angeles Times - Aug 12, 1991

A search of the patent records turned up a 1994 Chinese patent (CN1106283A) for these 'toothache-killer cigarettes':

The toothache cigarette is prepared from paniculate swallowwort root, dahurian angelica root, asarum herb, European verbena verb, turtle shell, honeycomb and tobacco shreds through mixing and grinding the first six, mixing with tobacco shreds, rolling into cigarettes or loading in sealed box or bag. Smoking it can immediately stop toothache with effective rate of 98% as the active components in Chinese-medicinal materials are released when heated.

I wonder what happens if you smoke them when you don't have a toothache. Would your mouth go numb?

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 26, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Patents, Smoking and Tobacco, Teeth

Advice for Doctors, 1948

Posted By: Paul - Tue Sep 28, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Medicine, Smoking and Tobacco, 1940s

Vanguard Tobacco-Free Cigarettes

Vanguard cigarettes, which came on the market in 1959, were advertised as containing no tobacco tars, no nicotine, and no arsenic. So what did they contain? It was a mystery substance called 'Fibrila'.

The FDA examined a sample of Fibrila and determined it was a blend of "sugar cane bagasse, licorice and corn silk." But mostly corn silk.

Corn silk is that stringy stuff you have to remove before eating an ear of corn. Apparently it's long been a popular tobacco substitute among teenagers denied access to real cigarettes. And it's possible to make a tea out of it as well.

The Hackensack Record - Sep 24, 1959

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 27, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Smoking and Tobacco

You’re never alone with a Strand

The 1959 "Lonely Man" TV ad for Strand cigarettes is rumored to be the greatest advertising flop in UK history. Because it seemed to say, "If you smoke our cigarettes, you may become a lonely sad sack wandering the streets at night."

Rob Gray has some analysis of the failed commercial in his book Great Brand Blunders:

In extreme cases, ill-judged advertising can kill a brand stone dead — even if the ad is well-made and memorable. Such was the fate of cigarette brand Strand back in the long-ago days when tobacco products could be advertised on UK television. In 1959 Imperial Tobacco's subsidiary W.D. & H.O. Wills, a firm able to trace its roots in the business back to a tobacconist's shop in Bristol in the 1780s, launched Strand with a high-profile TV advertising campaign supported by posters, press advertising and coupons that could be redeemed for free packs. The TV commercial, devised by copywriter John May at British agency S.H. Benson, saw actor Terence Brook smoking while roaming the rain-drenched strees of London in stylish trench coat and trilby hat...

The style of the protagonist and soundtrack to the commercial appealed to the public. Once it went on air people began getting in touch to find out if the theme tune was available to buy as a record. Sensing an opportunity, Cliff Adams and His Orchestra booked some recording studio time and laid down the track, The Lonely Man Theme, for release as a single. In 1960 The Lonely Man Theme broke into the Top 40...

Undeniably, the advertising campaign earned Strand tremendous recognition. As Winston Fletcher writes in his book Powers of Persuasion: The Inside Story of British Advertising 1951-2000, 'Public awareness of the brand and its advertising rocketed to over 90% within weeks. This was unprecedented and has rarely if ever been surpasssed.' It was a brilliant achievement, but one with a fatal flaw. Despite the high awareness levels delivered by the campaign, hardly anyone was buying the product.

The reasons why revolved around how the Lonely Man was perceived. Many viewers found the focus on loneliness uncomfortable. If the man was reliant on a packet of smokes for company, did this mean he was a bit of an oddball unable to sustain friendships? Was he an addictive personality, craving nicotine above human company? Could he be on his own because of a failed relationship or even due to bereavement? Might he be depressed?...

trying to position a new tobacco brand around loneliness — rather than something much more positive and aspirational, such as individuality — was doomed to failure. With sales failing to take off despite the high level of standout the advertising achieved, Strand was soon withdrawn from the market.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Sep 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Music, Advertising, Smoking and Tobacco, 1950s

Mask for smokers

Back in 1919, Edward T. Duncan solved the problem of how to smoke and wear a mask at the same time.

Smoke if you want to, even though you wear an influenza mask. Corn plasters fitted to the mask, inside and out, supply the necessary hole.

Popular Science Monthly - May 1919

The only modern near-equivalent I can find is a mask that jokes about having a "smoke hole," without actually having one.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 20, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Health, Smoking and Tobacco, 1910s

The Lung Ashtray

Invented by Dr. Wayman R. Spence of Utah. It went on sale in 1969. The primary buyers, I imagine, were non-smokers giving them as annoyance gifts to smokers.

Some details from The Waco Citizen (Aug 19, 1971):

[Spence's] one-man campaign began about two years ago at a party in Salt Lake City.

"A woman lit up a cigarette and I, being my usual obnoxious self said, 'Somebody should give you an ashtray shaped like a pair of lungs so you can see what smoking is doing to you'" he said.

Soon thereafter he designed the lung ashtray which has been distributed throughout the nation, including one to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives. On top of the ashtray are a pair of clear plastic lungs that demonstrate what smoke does to the human lungs. The smoke curls up through one of the "lungs" and, in a short time, there is a deposit of tar and nicotine. The other lung remains clear for contrast.

The Missoulian - Jan 19, 1969

Salt Lake Tribune - May 11, 1969

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 01, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Smoking and Tobacco, 1960s

The Marijuana Sex Experiment

1975: There was a public hoo-ha when details of Dr. Harris Rubin's planned "marijuana sex study" leaked to the press. As described in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec 7, 1975):

Harris Rubin, a university psychologist, has proposed a $121,000, two-year, federally financed investigation. He plans to pay adult male volunteers $20 a session to smoke Government-supplied marijuana and watch erotic films while an electronic device attached to their genitals monitors physical reactions. Rubin hopes to learn whether the drug enhances or inhibits sexual activity.

The New Scientist noted that, despite the moral outrage, the purpose of the study was actually to generate anti-marijuana propaganda by demonstrating that marijuana inhibits sexual response. At least, that was the anticipated result. But the experiment was never conducted.

Dr. Harris Rubin of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine at Carbondale

Morton Hunt gives more details in his 1999 book The New Know-Nothings:

Both the subject and the methodology of Rubin's study were catnip to the media. Rubin and his colleagues planned to encircle the penis of each volunteer with a strain gauge transducer and then show him erotic pictures; any resultant engorgement of the member would be accurately measured and recorded. By conducting the experiment with two groups, one given either alcohol or marijuana and the other nothing, Rubin would be able to determine whether either drug increased or decreased sexual arousal, and to what extent.

On July 18, the Bloomington, Illinois, Daily Pantagraph, which had somehow become aware of the study, ran an article about it, and from then on Rubin's project was in trouble. Newspapers in Illinois, St. Louis, Washington, Chicago, and many other cities ran stories about what quickly became known as the "sex-pot study" or "pot-sex study," a topic so interesting that they ran follow-up stories about it for many months. Displaying suitable outrage, the Christian Citizens Lobby, Illinois governor Daniel Walker, a federal prosecutor, and various Illinois state officials all denounced the study, calling it "disgusing," "pornography," "obscene," and "garbage," and threatening to take action against Rubin.

This was mere growling and snapping, but Congress had the teeth wherewith to bite. Senators William Proxmire and Thomas Eagleton, Democrats but sexual conservatives, attacked it, as did Representative Robert Michel, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations subcommittee. Although the secretary of HEW and the president's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse defended and supported the project, Michel sought to prevent NIDA from funding the Rubin study by tucking an amendment to that effect in the $12.7 billion-dollar 1976 Supplemental Appropriations Bill for HEW, and Senators Proxmire and Warren Magnuson inserted a similar provision into the Senate's version of the bill. The funding of HEW was so crucial to the national well-being that both houses passed the bill with the anti-Rubin provision intact. President Ford signed it into law on May 31, 1976, keeping the vast Social Security system, NIH, and other essential endeavors going—and cutting off Rubin's minuscule funding and putting an end to his research. Rubin had already gathered the alcohol data and he eventually published his results, but the marijuana study died a-borning.

The Sedalia Democrat - Feb 4, 1976

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 31, 2021 - Comments (6)
Category: Drugs, Smoking and Tobacco, Experiments, 1970s, Moral Panics and Public Hysteria

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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