One hundred years ago

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 10 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:i

Is cigarette smoking a cause of death?

At a recent inquest on the body of a boy of 16 at Felling, near Gateshead, the jury found that he died from syncope due to nicotine poisoning caused by the excessive smoking of cigarettes, on which the coroner is reported to have said that there seemed to be quite an epidemic of such cases. Though there can be no doubt that excessive cigarette smoking, especially in youths, acts injuriously on the digestive and nervous systems, and, through the cardiac ganglia, affects the heart, it would be interesting to learn what were the symptoms which in the case quoted preceded death, and how it was inferred that they were due to cigarette smoking. The coroner urged that the attention of parents should be called to the danger of their children smoking at too early an age. We do not certainly desire to see established in England the Burmese habit of children learning to smoke as soon as they can walk, but we venture to think that the coroner overstated the case when he said there seemed to be an epidemic of deaths from cigarette smoking. It would be satisfactory to have more authentic facts on this subject.

View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial