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What’s In A Pipe?

Here’s a curious artifact from the 1842 Temperance Almanac, and a great example of why the prohibitionists were as nutty then was they are today. They saw, and see, evil and vice everywhere, with any single one not unto itself, but instead having to lead to more ruin and debauchery. While today we know that smoking isn’t the best choice you can make, in the mid-1800s it was considered a fairly benign pursuit, and in fact remained so well into my lifetime. I recall staying up with my psychotic stepfather, a chain-smoker, to watch the last television commercial air before midnight on New Year’s Day when they became forbidden on January 2, 1971. I’ve never been a cigarette smoker, though I used to enjoy the occasional cigar from time to time. The one thing I dislike more than smoking is obnoxious non-smokers, especially ex-smokers. But even the most ardent anti-tobacco advocate would have to admit that puffing on a pipe will not with absolute certainty lead to drinking alcohol. There’s no causation. That some people do both is, at best, a coincidence brought upon by the obvious fact that many people smoke (especially in 1842) and many people drink. But there are surely enough examples in everyone’s own experience to render such a blanket statement untenable. But for prohibitionists, it gets even weirder.

So, as Sigmund Freud would later say, “sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.” Just don’t expect a prohibitionist to believe it. Instead, if you smoke a pipe, you won’t be able to help yourself, it will cause you to drink and get drunk. According to 1842 prohibitionist logic, “smoking induces intoxication” — meaning it will actually “bring about, produce, or cause” you to drink. But that’s not where it ends, get drunk and that in turn “induces bile,” which is “a bitter, alkaline, yellow or greenish liquid, secreted by the liver, that aids in absorption and digestion, especially of fats.” That, in turn, “induces jaundice” — “yellow discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes, etc., due to an increase of bile pigments in the blood, often symptomatic of certain diseases, as hepatitis” followed inevitably and inexplicably by “dropsy,” which is “an infectious disease of fishes, characterized by a swollen, spongelike body and protruding scales, caused by a variety of the bacterium Pseudomonas punctata.” Yeah, that seems likely. But wait, it gets even worse. That fish disease you can’t help but contract “terminates in death.” So definitely enjoy that tobacco. Or as they conclude. “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” I’m willing to bet you can find modern prohibitionists who still believe it’s true, or that at least once you take a drink your life is over and can only fall into abject ruin.

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