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.

  • It was a curious mishap during this procedure that caused the conception of Johnny Fartpants. True Story.

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    • Dean Bigglesworth

      There wa s Finnish comic about a superhero called Peräsmies.. The name was a parody of Superman, which in Finnish is Teräsmies which translates to Steelman. Peräsmies was a hobo who ate a can of radioactive pea soup, that caused a stange mutation in his digestive system that made it possible to fly by farting.

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      And so one of the great heroes of our time was born…
      The internationally most well known Finnish superhero.
      A man who flies by farting, enemy of evil number eleven..

      • The Professor

        Hah! That's great, I've never seen that guy before.

  • OA5599

    Wouldn't the smoke kill the gerbil?

    • The Professor

      I think it depends if it's already a smoker or not.

    • No, he just gets an enema too. I'm assuming he goes in headfirst, not having any firsthand experience with such things.

  • If I were to caption that photo …

    CEO delivers new 5 year strategic plan at investor conference.

  • aastrovan

    At last you put in writing what some of us have been thinking all along.Your courage is applauded.

  • Mike England

    First you started with the POSTHUMOUS application of smoke-up-the-ass. (SUTA)
    Then, you went on to reveal a particular type quackery involving SUTA for people THOUGHT to be dead.
    But, you never closed the loop on the after-death application of SUTA.
    Why would anyone blow smoke up a dead guy's ass?
    I wonder if this is where that epression came from?

    • The Professor

      I'd say that the German doctor is just practicing on the corpse, possibly because he couldn't find a willing nearly dead subject and he wanted to polish his technique, or perhaps he was giving a demo to a non-swimmer to reassure him.

  • Tiller188

    Wait…smoke enemas are the appropriate treatment for people who are "nearly dead"? I think Miracle Max might have a thing or two to say about that. (Or are "nearly dead" and "mostly dead" two distinct states? I'm not familiar with these specific medical terms…)

    • CaptianNemo2001

      I would think that "mostly dead" is more dead then "nearly dead" but that's me.

    • The Professor

      Yes, yes, I wondered about that too, and the best I could come up with is using the drowned swimmers as a guideline. When a drowned swimmer is pulled from the water and it is known the drowning is very recent, they are considered to be nearly dead. As time passes and resuscitation attempts fail, they are considered to be mostly dead until everyone gives up and goes home, and then they're considered to be completely dead.
      It works for me.

      • Vairship

        I'm sure it's quite effective. Nothing like someone shoving a pipe up your butt and blowing acrid smoke up there to make you jump back to life shouting "I'm not dead yet!"

  • mevilon

    I bet it works …

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