dilatation and contraction. The stimulation of the third pair of nerves causes a contraction of the pupil; a larger dose of nicotine destroys its susceptibility and dilatation follows, the upper lid falls, strabismus ensues, the eyeball becomes fixed—in short, the motor power of the eye is paralyzed. M. Blatin considers that the muscular fibre of the eye is not at all affected by the poison.
Blatin proposes to divide tobacco-poisoning into two classes, acute and chronic. The first is the result of a large or unaccustomed dose; the second, the accumulative consequences of doses, perhaps small, but continually repeated.
The unpleasant experiences of the first pipe will enable most smokers to understand the nature of this acute poisoning. Children have even been made ill by sucking at pipes, empty, but already coated with tobacco-juice. Sometimes a very slight dose exercises a fatal effect upon systems in which tolerance has not been established. Thus a youth of fourteen, having smoked fifteen cents' worth of tobacco as a remedy for toothache, fell down senseless and died the same evening. Blatin also tells us of a medical student, aged twenty-two, who, after smoking a single pipe, fell into a frightful state—the heart became nearly motionless, the chest constricted, his breathing was extremely painful, the limbs contracted, the pupils insensible to light, one dilated, the other contracted. These symptoms gradually lessened, but did not disappear until four days after.
But it is chronic nicotism which has the greatest interest for us. The poisonous effects of tobacco in larger doses are too evident for denial, and need scarcely be insisted upon. Far more important is it to learn whether tobacco, in the quantities daily consumed by its habitual users, has a permanently injurious effect upon the human system.
It is often only after a number of years that nicotic symptoms appear, as though the poison acted by a process of accumulation, until the system was charged to satiety. And thus any thing which disturbs the equilibrium of the functions, and so diminishes the elimination of the poison, may give rise to morbid phenomena.
There is a theory not unknown, even among medical men, that the toxic influences of tobacco are only transitory, and that all the poison is ultimately expelled from the system. But it is certain, from an experiment of M. Morin, that the nicotine can be detected in the tissues of the lungs and liver after death.
M. Blatin regards the various local affections as trifling, when compared with the gradual saturation of the system with nicotine, which, accumulating in the tissues, waits for the opportunity, varying, according to individual habits and constitution, of declaring its poisonous nature.
The trembling, which is one of the usual symptoms of acute, is
- Druhen, p. 44
- Blatin, p. 76.
- Year Book of Medicine (New Sydenham Society), 1861, p. 447, and Blatin, p. 93.