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Disease from Tobacco



The dust arising from tobacco leaf, during the process of making cigars, is most injurious. While the leaf is being rolled up, unless the ventilation of the work-room is exceedingly perfect, the dust from broken leaves and siftings is inhaled, and proves most irritating. In the course of drying, the dust and vapor from the drying-room act in combination, and lead not only to oppres sion of breathing but to irritation of the throat, and, in the young, to giddiness and nausea. One workman told me that lie never got over a bronchial irritation produced by this dust until he left his work at night, then the effect subsided.

The dust produced in the various processes of snuff-making is still more injurious. The tobacco leaf, finely cut up, is mixed with lime-water, salt., sometimes even floor-dust sweepings, and, in yellow snuff, with red lead. These ingredients, placed in a bin and heated twice or three times, to give sharpness to the snuff, are frequently turned over in order to facilitate the process of drying. While this turning is in progress, there arises a dust with a smoke, which so affects the younger workmen that they become faint and vomit, until, by use, they are rendered tolerant of the poisonous matters they inhale.

In the further process of finishing the snuff, after it has been ground and dried, there is what is called sifting "the shorts," preparatory to adding the " liquors," viz., salt and water to make weight, and scents to give perfume. The sifting charges the air with dust, which is as injurious as the smoke, and which produces severe symptoms in the young, retching, faintness, and great irritation of the bronchial passages. The rooms in which these works are carried on are too often close and unventilated, and thereby the irritation of the throat, the cough, and the nausea are much increased. Sifting the " shorts" is more hurtful than roll ing the cigar.. The consolation of the workman is that he be comes accustomed to the poison if he only keeps to the work, and at last gets over the symptoms.

In so far as the acuteness of the symptoms is concerned the workman is generally correct, but it is not to be presumed that the mischief stops at this point. The system of the workman becomes tolerant in some measure, but the tolerance is only par tial. Chronic maladies, which are of serious and even fatal im port, are induced by continued application. Those workmen who are disposed to pulmonary consumption suffer readily from that disease, while in others, of better constitution, less serious, but still serious derangements are manifested, the most common of which are a persistent dyspepsia and that pale and bloodless con dition to which the technical term anaemia is applied.

Another common symptom is a rapid and irregular action of the heart. Palpitation of the heart, and intermittent action in which the organ hesitates in its beat, are marked phenomena. I think I may, indeed, say that in these workmen the action of the heart is never at its full power, and never perfectly regular so long as they are following their employment. In cases where the chronic effects are most intense, the muscles of the body share in the feebleness and disturbance. The hands become tremulous, the lower limbs unsteady. In two examples I have seen the breathing muscles influenced and an extremely painful spasm pro duced through the chest, followed by faintness, as if the sufferer were about to die.

Lastly, the organs of the senses are impaired from .these occu pations. There is deafness and an imperfection of vision, which renders light painful to the eye. It is also unfortunate that these occupations lead often to the habit of smoking or chewing tobacco, and when either habit occurs the evil consequences are greatly increased. I believe few workmen escape altogether the dangers I have named, and not many are able to carry on their business beyond their fortieth year.

dust, workmen, irritation, workman, serious and lead