Brainings, Technostalgia

Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass


Good morning everyone.

Yesterday morning I was reading the various tech blogs looking for ideas to steal interesting articles, I came across an unusual headline on Boing-Boing: “Tobacco Enemas For Everyone!“. I was alarmed for a moment because I didn’t want an enema regardless of what everyone else was doing, especially a tobacco enema. It doesn’t take much nicotine to kill you, around 30mg, the amount typically found in two or three tobacco leaves. It would be a decidedly odd method of death, and one sure to generate lurid headlines.

I wondered briefly if this was an offshoot of the “new teen craze” of imbibing alcohol rectally called ‘butt-chugging’, although from what I’ve read this “new teen craze” has been practiced by “middle-aged weirdos” for some time in order to get drunk extremely rapidly. The MSM news was making an inordinate amount of noise (as usual) about possible fatalities from alcohol poisoning in college kids from butt-chugging, but the only fatality from the practice that I’ve read about occurred in a man in his 40s or 50s (in Alabama I think, but I can’t remember and I won’t look it up) when his wife gave him a wine enema during one of their ‘play’ sessions and he died from alcohol poisoning. There was no mention of the number of wetsuits involved.

The photograph of the apparatus used for the procedure was equally alarming:


Image from Boing-Boing

The injector mechanism appears to be a small version of the type of bellows used by blacksmiths, and imagining it in use caused me to have an involuntary butt-clench that was nearly audible. Surely this was something used by BDSM practitioners or 18th century doctors.

Anyway, once I bothered to read the article (always a let down from the headlines) I found that it was referring to tobacco smoke enemas, which is just as weird but not as disgusting. It also confirmed my guess regarding 18th century doctors.

Evidently the practice was taken from the American Indians who used tobacco for may things and used tobacco smoke enemas for stomach ailments. The European doctors immediately ran with the idea and used “tobacco as a treatment for a long list of diseases, such as cancer, headaches, respiratory problems, stomach cramps, gout, intestinal worms and female diseases.” Ah yes, the many fearsome and mysterious female diseases that male doctors struggled to cure. A smoke enema was a new and exiting application for them, and more importantly, new billing possibilities.


The practitioners liked a good long stand-off when applying the treatment. Image from Wiki

One of the main uses for smoke enemas turned out to be for resuscitating drowning victims or others who were “nearly dead”, a rather vague diagnosis.

Many medical journals from this time noted that the human body can undergo a stimulation of respiration through the introduction of tobacco smoke by a rectal tube. In fact, by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in western medicine.

 The 18th century saw a growing sense of national responsibility for health and welfare. One curious result was the founding of so-called humane societies, devoted to resuscitating the victims of drowning or other mishap. Tobacco smoke enemas were considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration. Meaning, if you stopped breathing, the doctor’s first action was to shove a tube up your rectum and to begin pumping tobacco smoke in your body.” [Pictures in Time]
Bah, people who speak about the ‘good old days’ like it was some kind of Golden Age of living are out of their minds.


Boing-Boing, who is primarily the blame for this article.

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