The selected works of Mahatma Gandhi

Key To Health


Table of Contents

About This Book

Written by : M. K. Gandhi
Edited by : Bharatan Kumarappa
Foreword by : Morarji Desai
First Edition : 3,000 copies, December 1954
Fifteenth Re-print : 5,000 copies, March 2011
Total : 69,000 copies
ISBN : 81-7229-040-3
Printed and Published by : Jitendra T. Desai
Navajivan Mudranalaya,
© Navajivan Trust, 1954


Chapter 09: Tobacco

Tobacco have simply worked havoc amongmankind. Once caught in its tangle, it is rare to find anyone get outagain. The use of tobacco is prevalent all over the world in one form oranother. Tolstoy has called it the worst of all intoxicants. Thisverdict of that great man should command our attention and respect. Hehad freely indulged in the use of tobacco and alcohol in his early daysand was familiar with the harmful effects of both. I must admit, however, that in spit of this, I cannot talk about the evils of tobaccowith the same authority knowledge as in the case of opium and alcohol.But I can certainly say that I am not aware of a single advantageoccurring from the use of tobacco. Smoking is an expensive habit. I knowof an Englishman who used to spend five pounds, i.e., seventy-fiverupees on tobacco every month. His monthly earning was twenty-fivepounds, so that he smoked away one fifth of his monthly income.
Tobacco smokers become callous andcareless of others' feeling. Non-smokers generally cannot bear the smellof tobacco smoke, but one often comes across people in railway train andtramways who just go on smoking, heedless of feeling of their neighbors.Smoking causes salivation and most smokers have no hesitation inspitting anywhere.
Tobacco smokers' mouth emit a foul smell. Probably tobacco kills the finer feelings and perhaps it is to this end that men take to smoking. There is no doubt that tobacco is an intoxicant and while under its effects one forgets one's worries and misfortunes. One of Tolstoy's character had to do a ghastly deed. Tolstoy's makes him drink liquor at first. The man was to murder someone. In spite of the effects of liquor, he hesitated to do so. Lost in thought he lights a cigar and begin to smoke. As he watches the smoke curling up he exclaimed, "what a coward I am! When it my duty to commit this murder, why should I hesitate to do so ? Get up, go ahead, and do your job." Thus his wavering mind finally decided to commit it. I know, this argument is not very convincing. All smokers are not bad men. I know that millions of smokers seem to live ordinary straightforward lives. All the same the thoughtful should ponder above quotation. What Tolstoy perhaps means is that smoker keep on committing minor crimes which generally pass unnoticed.
In India people use tobacco forsmoking, snuffing and also for chewing. Some believe that snuff producesa benefit effect, and they use it under the advise of vaids and hakims.I think that it is not necessary. A healthy man should never have suchrequirements.
As for chewing tobacco, it is thedirtiest of all the three ways in which tobacco is used. I have alwaysmaintained that its uselessness is a mere figment of the imagination.I have found no reasons to change my opinion. There is a popular sayingin Gujrati which says, all the three are equally guilty: the smokerfills his house with smoke, the chewer dirties every corner and thesnuffer his clothes.
Tobacco sheers, if they are sensible,keep a spittoon at hand. But the vast majority spit on the floor, in thecorners and on the wall unabashed. The smoker fills his house with smokeand runs the rash of it catching fire, and he takes snuff soils hisclothes. If there are any who keep handkerchief and thus save theirclothes from soiling, they are exception that prove the general rule.Lovers of health, if they are slaves to any of these evil habit, willresolutely get out of the slavery. Several people are addicted to one,two or all the three of these habits.
They do not appear loathsome tothem. But if we think over it calmly, there is nothing becoming aboutblowing of smoke or keeping the mouth stuffed with tobacco and panpractically the whole day long or opening a snuffbox and taking snuffevery now and then. All the three are most dirty habits.