that long-ago Victorian time, an Ohio-born teacher and newspaperwoman named Lucy
Page Gaston founded an organization in Chicago that became the Anti-Cigarette
League of America. She was a member of the anti-alcohol Women’s Christian Temperance
Union and structured the new organization similarly. Her theory was that cigarette
smoking led to harder stuff like booze and narcotics.
Naturally, the more
entreprenurially minded saw the burgeoning movement to bring about social change
in the U.S. as a way to net some traditional change – the kind that jingles in
the pocket. By 1895, a chemical company in Springfield, Mass. was selling a product
called Narcoti-Cure for $5 a bottle.
Drink it, the company advertised,
and your craving for cigarettes disappeared. That’s because you were likely zonked
out on some opiate, cocaine derivative or alcohol contained in their product,
but hey, no one’s perfect.
years later, despite the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, purveyors
of quack medicine continued to cash in on the anti-smoking movement, which by
1909 had actually succeeded in getting cigarettes banned in 12 states.
One of those people was whoever bought a half-page ad for the Feb. 1915 issue
of an iconoclastic Austin weekly called
K. Lamity’s Harpoon. Founded in 1902, the magazine had a national circulation.
The ad touted a San Antonio business
called The Anti-Smoke Co. No street address accompanied the ad, just a post office
“Anti-Smoke Has the Punch To Knock Out Cigarettes, Cigars,
Pipes, Chewing of Tobacco or Dipping of Snuff,” the ad declared up front. “Anti-smoke
has knocked the tobacco habit from others. WHY NOT YOU?”
To break the
tobacco habit (the ad no where mentions the word “nicotine,” all a person had
to do was open a bottle of Anti-Smoke and “simply gargle your throat and rinse
your mouth out with it twice or more a day.”
How the product did this
went unexplained in the ad, but the idea is reminiscent of more modern drugs that
are used to treat alcoholics by making them feel sick if they ingest alcohol while
on the drug. As the 1915 ad puts it, “You can’t use tobacco and use Anti-Smoke.
You must give up one or the other.”
The ad included four excerpts from
letters purportedly penned by satisfied Anti-Smoke customers. The first, from
Canada, noted that “a friend” had tried the remedy and “proclaimed it OK,” so
the writer from Ontario was enclosing $1 for two bottles. Another testimonial
writer, from Hot Springs, SD, said a friend had “highly recommended” Anti-Smoke
and that he had decided to try it. A third supposedly satisfied customer asserted
that the medicine had “had the desired effect.”
The final letter came from
someone living in Era, a
tiny community in Cooke County in North
Texas. The writer said he had ordered two bottles of Anti-Smoke the previous
April, but that “less than one bottle cured me of the cigarette habit.” And while
the concoction from the Alamo City apparently broke the man of smoking, it left
his sense of humor intact. “I did not use them [cigarettes] to excess,” the man
continued, “only smoked 50 or 60 a day.” He concluded that, “Your remedy will
do the work and do it quick and without inconvenience to the user.”
product sold for 50 cents a bottle, postage paid “to the house of any reader of
the Harpoon….” Stamps or money orders were acceptable means of payment.
how long the San Antonio-based company that manufactured this product remained
in business is not known. In fact, an online search turns up no mention of the
firm or its product. But Anti-Smoke clearly never achieved the name recognition
enjoyed by many brands of the combustible product it purported to counter.
War I and the widely accepted perception that cigarettes could calm a person’s
nerves set the anti-smoking movement way back, and the freewheeling 1920s pretty
much extinguished the sentiment to meddle with American tobacco consumption. At
least for the next 40-something years.
Cox - August 30, 2012 column
Topics: Columns | People
| Texas | Texas Town