Wednesday, May 25, 2016

1879: Asthma cigarettes become a craze

Figure 7 -- Potter's Patient Inhaler (funnel device) (3)
By the mid 19th century the market for inhaling ingredients and powders grew steadily. Some pharmacists gathered the ingredients and sold them to individuals. Some tossed powders on plates and ignited it to inhale fumes. Some stuffed it into homemade pipes and others rolled it into cigarettes

Some pharmacists gathered the ingredients and further prepared them into powders to be further prepared by the patient.  Some pharmacists went a step further and rolled the powder into cigarettes that could be purchased in packs.  So there were a variety of options.

By 1879 an asthma cigarette craze struck America and Europe. (1)

More and more companies entered the market in an attempt to benefit off the plight of asthmatics.

Belladonna, stramonium, lobelia, henbane, atropine, and even cannabis were packaged in cans and placed on shelves in pharmacies.

The products were marketed for just about any respiratory condition, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, cholera, croup, catarrh, and hay fever.

By the 1880s technology progressed so some companies pre-rolled cigarettes, packaged them, and sold their product at pharmacies.

Asthma cigarettes from a variety of companies could be found on pharmacy shelves like the A.H. Lyman Company, a privately owned pharmacy on River Street in Manistee, Michigan.  When the business closed during the 1950s, the building and all its contents were donated to the Manistee Historical Society, and since turned into a museum.

Among the contents of the pharmacy, the shelves of which are still intact and filled with antique prescriptions, is a box of asthma cigarettes.

According the Mark Sanders at, the most famous brands were:
Figure 8 -- Potter's Asthma Cigarettes (3)
  • Schiffmann’s 
  • Asthmador
  • Blosser’s
  • Potter’s 
  • Marshall’s
  • Kinsman’ 
  • Dr Guild’s green   Mountain
  • Kellogg’s  
  • Page’s
  • Regesan’s
In my studies the brand I've come across most often was Potter's Asthma Cigarettes, which you can see in the picture to the right or by clicking over to  This was among the most popular brands in Britain.

Figure 9 -- Potter's Asthma Pills (3)
The main ingredient in Potter's cigarettes were stramonium, belladonna and atropine.  Mark Sanders over at notes that Potter's also had a variety of asthma remedies that included cigarettes, incense, pills and powders to be inhaled by Potter's funnel device (see figures 7, 8 and 9)

An asthmatic patient of mine who grew up in 1950s in Manistee, Michigan said she remembered her dad smoking cigarettes from a green package.  We later figured the produce was probalby Dr. Schiffmann's Asthmador Cigarettes.

  1. "The Scarcity of Cubebs," The Chemist and Druggist," 1887, Feb. 26, page 268 of  Chemist and Druggist: A Weekly Trade Journal, 1887, Vol. XXX, January to June 1887
  2. Sanders, Mark,,, accessed on various dates
  3. Picture used with permission from
  4. Jackson, Mark, "'Divine Stramonium': The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma,"  Med Hist., 2010 April; 54(2): 171–194.
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