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“Divine Stramonium”: The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma

  • Mark Jackson (a1)
Extract

On the evening of Saturday 31 August 1901, the celebrated French novelist Marcel Proust wrote to his mother with characteristic intimacy, recounting his struggle to quell a severe attack of asthma the previous day. Having suffered from periodic attacks of asthma since the age of nine, Proust was familiar with the range of contemporary treatments for the condition: over the years, he had been prescribed opium, caffeine, iodine, and morphine (which had once been injected by his father, Dr Adrien Proust), his nose had been cauterized numerous times, he had adopted a milk diet, and he had occasionally attempted to relieve both his asthma and his hay fever by visiting health resorts, such as Evian-les-Bains, on the shores of Lake Geneva. However, as his note to his mother suggests, Proust's favoured remedy involved the inhalation of smoke from anti-asthma cigarettes or powders:

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References
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1George D Painter (ed.), Marcel Proust: letters to his mother, London, Rider, 1956, pp. 124–7.

2Matthew Hilton, Smoking in British popular culture 1800–2000, Manchester University Press, 2000, pp. 1–2. For a broad discussion of the early history of tobacco consumption, see also Jordan Goodman, Tobacco in history: the cultures of dependence, London, Routledge, 1993. For accounts of smoking opium and cannabis, particularly during the nineteenth century, see Virginia Berridge, Opium and the people: opiate use and drug control policy in nineteenth and early twentieth century England, London, Free Association Books, 1999; James H Mills, Cannabis Britannica: empire, trade, and prohibition, Oxford University Press, 2003; Louise Foxcroft, The making of addiction: the ‘use and abuse’ of opium in nineteenth-century Britain, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007.

3Stephen Lock, Lois Reynolds and E M Tansey (eds), Ashes to ashes: the history of smoking and health, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1998; Rosemary Elliot, Women and smoking since 1890, New York and London, Routledge, 2008; Virginia Berridge, Marketing health: smoking and the discourse of public health in Britain, 1945–2000, Oxford University Press, 2007.

4Allan M Brandt, The cigarette century: the rise, fall and deadly persistence of the product that defined America, New York, Basic Books, 2007.

5Ibid., p. 3.

6Berridge, op. cit., note 3 above, p. 12.

7Some detailed histories of smoking do refer, but only in passing, to the role of smoking in reducing stress, see Berridge, op. cit., note 3 above, p. 12. The broader health effects of tobacco are explored in R B Walker, ‘Medical aspects of tobacco smoking and the anti-tobacco movement in Britain in the nineteenth century’, Med. Hist., 1980, 24: 391–402. Historical studies of opium also include some discussion of the variable impact on health of smoking those substances: Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above, pp. 195–205; Foxcroft, op. cit., note 2 above, pp. 72–4.

8Jay Grossman, ‘The evolution of inhaler technology’, Journal of Asthma, 1994, 31: 55–64; Noel Snell, ‘Inhalation devices: a brief history’, Respiratory Disease in Practice, summer 1995: 13–15; Jean-François Dessanges, ‘A history of nebulization’, Journal of Aerosol Medicine, 2001, 14: 65–71; Paula J Anderson, ‘History of aerosol therapy: liquid nebulization to MDIs to DPIs’, Respiratory Care, 2005, 50: 1139–50; Mark Sanders, ‘Inhalation therapy: an historical review’, Primary Care Respiratory Journal, 2007, 16: 71–81.

9Goodman, op. cit., note 2 above, pp. 19–36.

10P Ram Manohar, ‘Smoking and Āyurvedic medicine in India’, in Sander L Gilman and Zhou Xun (eds), Smoke: a global history of smoking, London, Reaktion Books, 2004, pp. 68–75.

11B Ebbell (tr.), The Papyrus Ebers: the greatest Egyptian medical document, Copenhagen, Levin and Munksgaard, 1937, p. 67.

12Snell, op. cit., note 8 above; Robert Bree, A practical inquiry on disordered respiration; distinguishing convulsive asthma, its specific causes, and proper indications of cure, Birmingham, M Swinney, 1797, p. 375.

13For more detailed discussion, see Mark Jackson, Asthma: the biography, Oxford University Press, 2009.

14For an English version of Ibn Sarabī ūn’s work, see Luke Demaitre, ‘Straws in the wind: Latin writings on asthma between Galen and Cardano’, Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, 2002, 23: 59–93.

15Ibid.

16Gerrit Bos (ed.), Maimonides: On asthma, Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 2002, p. 5.

17Ibid., p. 73.

18For more detailed discussion of Cardano’s approach, see Alan Wykes, Doctor Cardano: physician extraordinary, London, Muller, 1969; Charles L Dana, ‘The story of a great consultation: Jerome Cardan goes to Edinburgh’, Ann. Med. Hist., 1921, 13: 122–35; Jackson, op. cit., note 13 above.

19John Baptista van Helmont, Oriatrike or, Physick refined, London, 1662; Thomas Willis, Pharmaceutice rationalis: or, The operations of medicines in humane bodies, Part II, London, 1679.

20Walker, op. cit., note 7 above; Goodman, op. cit., note 2 above.

21John Floyer, A treatise of the asthma, London, Richard Wilkin, 1698.

22Ibid., pp. 207, 226.

23See, for example, the comments in Thomas Withers, A treatise on the asthma, London, G G J and J Robinson, 1786, pp. vii–viii.

24William Cullen, First lines of the practice of physic, 4 vols, Edinburgh, 1784, vol. 3, pp. 390–410; William Buchan, Domestic medicine, London, 1776, pp. 441–5.

25Anon., Instant relief to the asthmatic, or those afflicted with shortness of breath, London, 1774, pp. 22–3, 28–30.

26Philip Stern, Medical advice to the consumptive and asthmatic people of England, London, J Almon, 1767, p. 22. For a similar pamphlet advertising his own “inhaler”, see John Mudge, A radical and expeditious cure for a recent catarrhous cough, London, E Allen, 1778. On the inhalers themselves, see Sanders, op. cit., note 8 above.

27Bree, op. cit., note 12 above, pp. 375–83.

28Ibid., pp. 377–8. For a comparable discussion of the role of fumes and smoke in triggering asthma attacks, see Withers, op. cit., note 23 above.

29George Lipscomb, Observations on the history and cause of asthma, Birmingham, James Belcher, 1800, p. 99.

30James Anderson, The conclusion of letters on the culture of silk, Madras, Joseph Martin, 1792; James Anderson, Letters, &c., Madras, Bone and Cooper, 1796.

31Anon., ‘Communications relative to the Datura Stramonium, or thorn-apple: as a cure or relief of asthma’, Edinb. Med. Surg. J., 1812, 8: 364–7, at p. 365.

32Ibid., 367.

33Alexander Marcet, ‘On the medicinal properties of stramonium; with illustrative cases’, Medico-Chirurg. Trans., 1816, 7: 546–75.

34R T H Laennec, A treatise on the diseases of the chest and on mediate auscultation, 2nd ed., tr. John Forbes, London, T & G Underwood, 1827. The French first edition appeared as R T H Laennec, De l’auscultation médiate, Paris, J-A Brosson and J-S Chaudé, 1819.

35F H Ramadge, Asthma, its species and complications, or Researches into the pathology of disordered respiration, London, 1835, quoted in Barry E Brenner, ‘Where have we been? The history of acute asthma’, in Barry E Brenner (ed.), Emergency asthma, New York, Marcel Dekker, 1999, pp. 1–31, at p. 7.

36A T Thomson, ‘Clinical remarks on a case of asthma’, Lancet, 27 July 1839, ii: 645–9, at p. 647.

37Armand Trousseau, Lectures on clinical medicine, tr. P Victor Bazire, London, [1861], 1868.

38Henry Hyde Salter, On asthma: its pathology and treatment, London, John Churchill and Sons, 1860, pp. 161–204. See also idem, ‘Spasmodic asthma’, Lancet, 7 Jan. 1860, i: 12; idem, ‘On the treatment of the asthmatic paroxysm by full doses of alcohol’, Lancet, 14 Nov. 1863, ii: 558–9; idem, ‘On the treatment of asthma by belladonna’, Lancet, 30 Jan. 1869, ii: 152–3.

39Salter, On asthma, op. cit., note 38 above, p. 203. On the medical uses of cannabis in this period, see Mills, op. cit., note 2 above.

40Salter, On asthma, op. cit., note 38 above, pp. 198–201.

41See the discussion in Jackson, op. cit., note 13 above, ch. 2.

42Salter, On asthma, op. cit., note 38 above, p. 195.

43Thomas Pridham, ‘Observations on the treatment of asthma’, Br. Med. J., 17 Nov. 1860, ii: 896–8.

44Ibid.

45Hilton, op. cit., note 2 above, pp. 3–5.

46Walker, op. cit., note 7 above; Salter, On asthma, op. cit., note 38 above, pp. 166–76.

47Walker, op. cit., note 7 above.

48Salter, On asthma, op. cit., note 38 above, p. 176.

49Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above; Foxcroft, op. cit., note 2 above; and Mills, op. cit., note 2 above.

50G H Smith, ‘On opium smoking among the Chinese’, Lancet, 19 Feb. 1841–2, i: 707–10, quote at p. 710.

51Anon., What opium feels like. By one who has tried it, (1870), John Burns Collection, Greater London Record Office. See also Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above, p. 196; Foxcroft, op. cit. note 2 above, p. 73.

52Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above, p. 204.

53Charles R Broadbent, A medical treatise on the causes and curability of consumption, laryngitis, chronic catarrh, and diseases of the air passages, Boston, Damrell and Welch, 1862, p. 48.

54Sanders, op. cit., note 8 above, p. 75.

55A W B Simpson, ‘Quackery and contract law: the case of the Carbolic Smoke Ball’, Journal of Legal Studies, 1985, 14: 345–89; Janice Dickin McGinnis, ‘Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company: influenza, quackery, and unilateral contract’, Can. Bull. Med. Hist., 1988, 5: 121–41. The full Court of Appeal judgement is given in Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, 1893, 1 QB 256.

56For further examples of the range of medicated powders and cigarettes available, see Mark Sanders’ collection at http://inhalatorium.com; National Library of Medicine, Breath of life, Washington, 1998.

57On concerns about bronchial irritation and other side effects, see Sidney Martin, ‘A clinical lecture on asthma and its treatment’, Br. Med. J., 24 Dec. 1898, ii: 1861–3; J B Berkart, On bronchial asthma: its pathology and treatment, London, Oxford University Press, 1911, pp. 97–8. On the preference for oral tinctures of stramonium or belladonna, see C Theodore Williams, ‘The value of inhalations in the treatment of lung disease’, Br. Med. J., 29 Sept. 1888, ii: 700–6.

58Walter Hayle Walshe, A practical treatise on the diseases of the lungs, London, James Walton, 1871, pp. 552–3; E Symes Thompson, ‘Notes of a lecture on hay-fever’, Br. Med. J., 21 Jan. 1871, i: 58–60.

59Céleste Albaret, Monsieur Proust, ed. Georges Belmont, London, Collins and Harvill Press, 1976, p. 63.

60Ibid., p. 62.

61Henry Hyde Salter, On asthma: its pathology and treatment, 2nd ed., London, John Churchill and Sons, 1868, p. 2.

62For a brief discussion of tobacco use in asthma during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see H Silvette, P S Larson, and H B Haag, ‘Medical uses of tobacco, past and present’, Virginia Medical Monthly, 1958, 85: 472–84.

63William Osler, The principles and practice of medicine, 4th ed., New York, D Appleton, 1901, p. 632.

64Eric K Chu and Jeffrey M Drazen, ‘Asthma: one hundred years of treatment and onward’, Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., 2005, 171: 1202–8. Stramonium was also recommended for the treatment of asthmatic children during the inter-war years: L A Reynolds and E M Tansey (eds), Childhood asthma and beyond, Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine, vol. 11, London, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, 2001.

65H Herxheimer, ‘Atropine cigarettes in asthma and emphysema’, Br. Med. J., 15 Aug. 1959, ii: 167–71, at p. 171. See also Harold A Abramson, ‘Therapy of asthma with reference to its psychodynamic pharmacology’, Bull. N. Y. Acad. Med., 1949, 25: 345–63.

66For further discussion, see Mark Jackson, Allergy: the history of a modern malady, London, Reaktion Books, 2006, pp. 27–55.

67Berkart, op. cit., note 57 above, p. 97.

68Arthur Hurst, ‘An address on asthma’, Lancet, 28 May 1921, i: 1113–17, at p. 1117.

69Warren T Vaughan, Strange malady: the story of allergy, New York, Doubleday, Doran, 1941, pp. 179–80.

70Doris J Rapp and A W Frankland, Allergies: questions and answers, London, Heinemann, 1976, pp. 34, 95; emphasis in original.

71See Jackson, op. cit., note 13 above.

72George W Bray, ‘The treatment of asthma’, Br. Med. J., 19 Jan. 1935, i: 119–21.

73George W Bray, ‘The treatment of asthma’, Post-grad. Med. J., Oct. 1935, 11: 339–45.

74Dharmendra, ‘Asthma’, Indian Med. Gaz., 1936, 1: 279–84.

75Jackson, op. cit., note 66 above, pp. 134–5; Jackson, op. cit., note 13 above.

76Jackson, op. cit., note 66 above, pp. 132–3.

77Sanders, op. cit., note 8 above; Anderson, op. cit., note 8 above.

78Chu and Drazen, op. cit., note 64 above. See also David Jack, ‘Drug treatment of bronchial asthma 1948–95 – years of change’, Int. Pharm. J., 1996, 10: 50–2.

79Smith, op. cit., note 50 above.

80Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above; Mills, op. cit., note 2 above.

81Berridge, op. cit., note 3 above; Hilton, op. cit. note 2 above, pp. 179–201.

82Silvette, Larson, and Haag, op. cit., note 62 above. See also the comments in Mass Observation Archive, TC 63, Box 3 File C Men S, 1 Sept. 1937. I am grateful to Rosemary Elliot for alerting me to this reference.

83Gustavus A Peters, Louis E Prickman, Giles A Koelsche, and Haddon M Carryer, ‘Smoking and asthma’, Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic, 1952, 27: 329–31.

84Anon., ‘The tobacco habit’, Br. Med. J., 16 Oct. 1943, ii: 502.

85Anon., ‘Smoking cures’, Br. Med. J., 20 Feb. 1954, i: 471; Anon., ‘Menthol cigarettes’, Br. Med. J., 17 Nov. 1956, ii: 1189.

86See the articles and correspondence within the British-American Tobacco Company on Atrotabak, in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, available online at http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu: ‘Nicotine-free cigarettes from tobacco and Belladonna’, Bates no. 1000025832; letter from D G Felton to Mr Anderson, dated 10 April 1963, Bates no. 106507887; letter from H D Anderson to D G Felton, dated 11 April 1963, Bates no. 103518668. I am grateful to Allan Brandt for alerting me to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.

87‘Cigarettes as drug dispensers – health cigarettes’, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates no. 100648851; Bo Holmstedt and Olle Wallen, ‘Drug administration by means of cigarettes’, Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Thérapie, 1959, 119: 275–93.

88The Poisons Rules, 1960, a copy of which is available in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates nos. 400517305-400517347.

89See the entry on Greece in U.S. Department of Agriculture, ‘Foreign Agriculture Circular’, 1986, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates no. 89609583/9694.

90M Robert Kaufman and Theodore Siek, ‘Is “natural” always healthy?’, J. Sch. Health, Aug. 1980, 50: 322–5.

91See, for example, the evidence presented before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996, in ‘Comments of Public Citizen, Inc. Regarding the FDA’s proposal to regulate the sale and promotion of tobacco products to minors’, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates no. 2048297052/7220.

92D Charpin, J Orehek and J M Velardocchio, ‘Bronchodilator effects of antiasthmatic cigarette smoke (Datura stramonium)’, Thorax, 1979, 34: 259–61; H L Elliott and J L Reid, ‘The clinical pharmacology of a herbal asthma cigarette’, Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol., 1980, 10: 487–90.

93‘Smoking and health’, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates no. 87492752.

94Virginia S Edwards, ‘The quest of the cubebs’, JAMA, 1968, 206: 133.

95Berridge, op. cit. note 3 above; Brandt, op. cit., note 4 above; Berridge, op. cit., note 2 above; Mills, op. cit., note 2 above.

96A C Hardman, ‘Abuse of belladonna alkaloids’, Can. Med. Assoc. J., 1968, 98: 466; J Robertson Unwin, ‘Illicit drug use among Canadian youth: part II’, Can. Med. Assoc. J., 1968, 98: 449–54.

97Elizabeth A Harrison and D H Morgan, ‘Abuse of herbal cigarettes containing stramonium’, Br. Med. J., 13 Nov. 1976, ii: 1195; A Ballantyne, P Lippiett, and J Park, ‘Herbal cigarettes for kicks’, Br. Med. J., 2 Dec. 1976, ii: 1539; Ronald K Siegel, ‘Herbal intoxication: psychoactive effects from herbal cigarettes, tea and capsules’, JAMA, 1976, 236: 473–6; A H Barnett, F W Jones and E R Williams, ‘Acute poisoning with Potter’s Asthma Remedy’, Br. Med. J., 24 Dec. 1977, ii: 1635; R G H Bethel, ‘Abuse of asthma cigarettes’, Br. Med. J., 30 Sept. 1978, ii: 959.

98Harrison and Morgan, op. cit., note 97 above.

99Bethel, op. cit., note 97 above.

100Kenneth R Chapman, ‘Anticholinergic bronchodilators for adult obstructive airways disease’, Am. J. Med., supplement 4A, 1991, 91: 13–16.

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