Smoking may seriously damage your teethAugust 17, 2008 Archaeology, Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Foyer, MOLA Osteology
Smoking was introduced to Britain in the 16th century, and pipe and cigar smoking had become popular by the 19th century. Tobacco use continued to rise and the first mass produced cigarettes were introduced in the 1880s. Evidence of smoking is often demonstrated on archaeological sites in the form of clay pipes. These disposable items were easy to make and the different types and manufactures markings can provide valuable dating information.
Recent analysis of over 700 skeletons from the Catholic Mission of Saints Mary and Michael, Whitechapel, London, who died between 1843 and 1854, has demonstrated how evidence of smoking can also be observed in the bones of past populations.
Fifty eight adult skeletons (58/268: 21.6%) displayed wear patterns to the surfaces of the teeth. These were often smooth, rounded grooves resulting from long term pipe smoking. In many cases a circular hole or ‘pipe notch’ was clearly visable when the upper and lower jaws were closed. Thirty two of the individuals with pipe notches also showed a brown coloured staining to the inside of the teeth. Pipe notches were found on a number of young adults. These may have developed over several years suggesting that smoking could have been taken up at a younger age. Adult smokers were also found to be more likely associated with lesions to the inside surfaces of the ribs, possibly the result of lung disease resulting from smoking.
This evidence may help provide information about how smoking affected the health of an individual and if it made more susceptible to other diseases and the infections compared to non smokers. If smoking was more commonplace amongst the Victorian working class, this may be used as an indicator of status and possibly gender. This may also help better our understanding and awareness of smoking in the modern world that is reported to kill 5.4 million people each year (World Health Organisation 2008).
A year on from the smoking ban, the museum of London looks into the history of smoking in London and life in the captial since the ban with a new exhibition ‘ The Big Smoke’. More information can be found at the following link…
www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/AboutUs/Newsroom/Archived08/The+Big+Smoke.htm (link updated 8 February 2010)