Calm your nerves…

With the knowledge we have now about the dangers of smoking, it’s hard to believe that in 1940s Britain even doctors might advise lighting up as a way of calming a patient’s nerves. It would be a common sight to see GPs smoking in a surgery, doctors and patients smoking in hospitals. Figures show that around eighty percent of adult males were smokers – cigarettes were popular, but so were pipes. Many women also smoked – estimates show around forty percent took up the habit in the late 1940s.

A hospital patient being offered ‘a little extra comfort’.

It was only when medical research began to show a link between smoking and lung disease that attitudes gradually began to change. In the early 1950s reports in medical journals highlighted the link, but the tobacco industry was powerful and it took many more decades until legislation started to support the findings. The British Medical Research Council reported “a direct causal connection” between smoking and lung cancer in 1957 and then in 1962 a Royal College of Physicians report confirmed that smoking is a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis, also probably contributing to heart disease. But it was only in 1965 that television advertising of cigarettes was banned and from there an increasing numbers of laws eventually led to the reduction in smoking that we see today.

Now we know that rather than benefitting our ‘nerves’ the dreaded weed harms almost every organ in the body – so perhaps it’s time to consider a soothing cup of chamomile tea instead!

Published by Isabella Muir

Isabella is passionate about exploring family life from the 1930s through to the 1960s and beyond. She has published six Sussex Crime mystery novels set during the 1960s and 1970s, a standalone novel dealing with the child migrant policy of the 1950s and 60s, several novellas set during the Second World War, and two short story collections. All available in paperback from your local bookshops, or online as ebooks. Her novels are also available as audiobooks, and have been translated into Italian.

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