An 1864 U.S. patent (#44,695) issued to Canadian cigar maker Sam Davis, reads:

“This invention consists of cigars made of a composition of tobacco leaves mixed with a small quantity of the leaves of belladonna, in such a manner that the specifics contained in the said plant are introduced into the system of the human body, together with the tobacco smoke, in a finely divided state, and thereby the healing qualities of said plants are enabled to exert a much more powerful effect than they can when introduced into the system in the ordinary manner.”

     Other medicinals could be added:

“The effect of my cigars (which I term “specific cigars) on the system of the smoker naturally differs according to the nature of the medical plant mixed with the tobacco. Cigars containing belladonna, for instance, will be found almost magical in relieving all the distressing symptoms of the following diseases, viz: neuralgia, liver complaints, bronchitis, spasmodic complaints, especially of the stomach, epilepsy, amblyopy, or shortsightedness, intermittent fever, gout, and all kindred diseases. The cigars containing digitalis will instantly ameliorate and eventually cure the following complaints: organic diseases of the heart, dropsy, weak lungs, nervousness, incipient consumption, &c. It is obvious that by mixing other medical plants with the tobacco other diseases may be reached in the same effective and easy manner.”

     This cure-all cigar was not a new concept according to its inventor, who noted his cigar was merely an improvement on previously created “medicated cigars.” He also mentioned “scented cigars” made from “shreds of cascarilla or other fragrant material.”  The Museum would like very much to find such boxes.

      About that same time, a British patent was issued to mix tonka-beans, gallic acid and valerian root in cigars, cigarettes and cheroots. The acid was to neutralize nicotine and ammonia contained in the tobacco, the tonka-bean was flavoring, and the valerian was a “nerviae” to correct the effect of the nicotine upon the system. The on-going quality problems related to tobacco in England are ameliorated by adding Benzoic acid “where very rank tobacco is employed, to further neutralize the ammonia.”

     Alas, neither boxes nor advertising from these early efforts are known to have survived. The earliest use of doctor - health themes on cigar boxes to promote cigar smoking found so far are from the 1870’s, though earlier examples may yet turn up. The oldest box in the NCM collection offering cigars with health-promoting chemical additives is from the mid 1880’s. That same decade witnessed the first offerings of cigars made healthy by the removal of nicotine.


Selling Cigars with Health Claims

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive Exhibit 

Text & illustrations ©2010, 2013 Tony Hyman, all rights reserved

Eleven new illustrations: October 9, 2010

New M&N box: August 1, 2011

New box: May 14, 2013

       Tobacco and health have been associated as long as the weed has been used. The earliest health uses by native Americans were as a poultice, an emetic and other uses best forgotten. Practitioners in Europe tried it for various ailments, and drug store jars testify to its medical uses by some folks well into the 1800’s.
  It is not surprising that smoking should be deemed by some as a healthy practice as pipes of shredded leaf were prescribed by doctors for centuries. As demand for cigars escalated in the early 1830’s what more natural than healthy cigars? This news story reports newly developed “digestive segars” to be “pleasant and health-preserving” and notes that four respectable physicians recommend  them for combining pleasure and health. Found in New York City’s THE SUN for October 30, 1834.

This exhibit looks at [1] how cigars have been modified to promote health, [2] adaptations to cigars to prevent harm, and [3] ways good health was touted in early advertising and packaging.