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Punch Article - 7th November 1934

punch cover 17th april 1946

  This is an article that was first published in 'Punch', a British satirical magazine, in 1934. It shows that as long ago as the Nineteen Thirties the main dangers of cigarette smoking were, if not fully appreciated, at least known by the general public and presumably the tobacco companies. 'Fortune Magazine' also expressed its concerns whilst heralding the tobacco companies as bastions of American Capitalism. Maybe the Great Depression and subsequently the Second World War pushed this looming public health catastrophe of the twentieth century, away from the headlines and the minds of people at large..

  This is a condensed version of the original Punch article and was discovered in an old copy of the Readers Digest dating from February 1935.

On Giving Up Smoking

Of course it is perfectly easy to give up smoking. One would not like to think that one has become such a slave to tobacco that one cannot do without it - a drug which weakens the heart, damages the nerves, gives you cancer and catarrh and so on. Personally I have given up smoking repeatedly. I have just gone without cigarettes and when people have offered them to me I have just said quietly and firmly, "No thank you," and lit my pipe.
  The difficulty to my mind is not so much giving up smoking as going on giving it up. The prospect of a negative policy like that for the rest of one's life is appalling. In consequence I have tried from time to time the various remedies which people say are helpful.

  1.   Chewing Gum. The snag about this one is simply the chewing-gum. After all, the only thing that matters about smoking is that it shortens one's life. And if the alternative is eternally masticating a sort of sticky brown rubber the sooner one's life is shortened the better.
  2.   Eating Sweets. This is a pleasant method, but not very effective. Unfortunately sweets leave a sweet taste in the mouth, and directly I finish one I find myself lighting a cigarette to take the taste away.
  3.   Gradually cutting down one's ration. This seems to be an admirable method as far as it goes. You simply put ten cigarettes in your case and resolve to make tham last the day. Nothing could be easier than that. In my own case it worked admirably. I found that my expenditure on cigarettes had dropped 50 percent almost at once. But my friends complained so bitterly that I was forced to abandon the scheme.
  4.   Sheer will-power. Fatal. It cuts both ways. If I am stopping by sheer will-power this is the sort of thing that happens: I take out my cigarette case. Then I remember that I am exerting will-power. "No," I say to myself,"surely you, a rational being, are not going to admit yourself a slave to this - this drug? Remember what that article in the paper said, 'Smoking takes five years off your life.'" So far so good. But then the trouble begins. Because clearly a rational being wouldn't let himself be scared by an article in a newspaper. And anyhow it will be a goood test of real will-power to see if one can smoke this cigarette and then stop - just like that. After which, naturally, events take their course.
  5.   Having definite smoking times. This method has worked admirably for me many times. I simply resolve to restrict myself to a cigarette after each meal. Snag: The thing deteriorates into two cigarettes after each meal and one before it. And after that, one really feels that the whole thing is such a wangle that frankly one might as well return to the status quo.
  6.  My present method. Operating at the moment and definitely with success. Ammounts to a solemn promise to myself that I will touch neither cigarettes nor a pipe for a week at least. At the end of that time the craving has departed and one is happier, healthier, has a clearer eye, a keener brain, more breath, fewer headaches....
      Sole snag: The price of cigars.

© "Punch ltd, 2nd Floor, 3 Hans Crescent, London SW1X 0LN, UK. Reproduced with permission"
Punch Cartoon 1936

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