Source: London Science Museum

Source: London Science Museum

This English resuscitator kit shows just how much of a pain in the arse drowning could be in the 17th to 19th centuries. Made in 1774 by Evans & Co of London, the apparatus was used to revive people who were 'apparently dead', by making use of tobacco's stimulant qualities.

Based on methods first used by Native Americans, the use of tobacco in different orifices as a cure-all started gaining popularity with European doctors in the late 1600's. The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient's rectum for various medical purposes, primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but by the early 1800's the medical community started second-guessing the efficacy of blowing poisonous nicotine up the rectums of unconscious people. The ensuing doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase "blow smoke up one's ass."

And now you know.


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