Home Office set to test ‘herb smokes’ in Leeds cigarette drought of 1949

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Dateline: March 1949...

Pictured climbing the steps at The Spa, Scarborough (aka Leeds-By-The-Sea) was 12-year-old H O Davey, of Harlow Oval, Harrogate. The picture was taken by his father, a well known Harrogate photographer and it was deemed so good that it won a guinea in the Evening Post’s picture competition. It also qualified for a five guinea ‘picture of the month’ competition.

In Leeds itself, there was a cigarette drought, brought on by a suspected batch of ‘herb smokes’, which had apparently made people feel ill.

“Superintendent George Hatherill, of Scotland Yard, ordered certain herb cigarettes to be tested by the Home Office.

Some Leeds shops were more harshly hit than others. The YEP reported: “As for ordinary cigarettes, some Leeds shops have empty shelves while others are stacked with cartons. Most of the smaller retailers are selling stocks as fast as they can for if Sir Stafford Cripps reduced the tax, they stand to lose.

“Asking for 10 cigarettes at one Leeds kiosk, a customer was cheerfully told, ‘As many as you like, today, love’ - and took 100. A long queue waited to follow suit. Round the corner, a tobacconist stood before his empty shelves and said: ‘Sorry, regular customers only.’

Meanwhile, across the pond, there were grumblings about the running of the Oscars ceremony, with some saying it could be cancelled.

The ceremony, which began in 1929, was apparently greatly in debt, thanks in part to a reluctance from the big studios to put money into it. Jean Hersholt, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said that trying to get money from them was “like squeezing blood from turnips”.