5/19/16

Cigarette Dogs: Delivering Free Smokes



These World War I dogs became famous in history for delivering cigarettes to troops in the trenches.


YMCA cigarette dog

Life in the trenches during the Great War was hard, dangerous and very stressful, and cigarette smoking helped provide some relief for many soldiers. Cigarettes were found to be a more convenient form of tobacco under wartime conditions - the pack was easy to carry, and the cigarette didn't get soggy like a cigar or constantly go out like a pipe and it could be snuffed on a moment's notice and saved for later.

In the US, cigarette smoking was generally looked upon with disdain. However, with the advent of the war, attitudes towards cigarettes changed as many people came to view them as a means of offering a respite from the horrors of battle. Doctors even considered a steady supply of cigarettes as essential to maintain calm during heavy raids and times of no action. It was even written in the Journal of the American Medical Association that cigarettes help soldiers at the front deal with the strain and help prevent nervous irritation.

Groups that once opposed the cigarette became active in distributing free smokes to soldiers. The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the YMCA helped support the demand for the once immoral cigarette to camps and hospitals both at home and overseas. Getting cigarettes to the men in the trenches was risky so small dogs were trained to deliver them - they were faster than man and smaller targets when crossing enemy fire.

Just like all war dogs, cigarette dogs were heroes. They performed their job well and many were injured and killed while doing so. The tobacco and the friendship the dogs provided helped thousands of soldiers during a brutal and difficult time.