Sunday schools began in England around 1780 to provide a basic education to the children of the poor on their day off. By 1810 Sunday schools and Sunday school societies were springing up in the Eastern United States. To reinforce the lessons taught on Sunday, many of the Sunday schools created libraries full of the “right kind” of books to improve the morals of the children.
The use of alcohol and tobacco were widely considered vices in the United States in the 19th century. Sunday school lessons often included commentary on those evils such as the small pamphlet, The Deadly Cigarette. In this tract, directed at boys, smoking is portrayed as a gateway habit to drinking and drinking was depicted as one of the greatest moral and cultural dangers of the era.
Influencing the behavior of kids by scaring the hell out them has a long history in America as you can see here:
“Let’s see what auntie says.” Presently two little boys came in.
“Please, Aunt Sarah,” asked James, “has anyone ever been known to be injured by cigarette smoking? We have learned,” he went on, “what the text-book says, and the teacher tells us it is ruinous; but some of the boys do smoke them, and say it doesn’t hurt at all.”
Aunt Sarah looked lovingly into the earnest faces upturned to hers, as she replied:
“Yes, my dears, I do know of boys ruined by cigarettes, ‘harmless’ ones, too, the dealer called them.”
“During the summer vacation three boys but little older than you, began smoking them. Before the fall term of school ended two were obliged to leave, Charlie having convulsions, and Edward, sore throat, both caused by tobacco poisoning, the doctors said. A few weeks later Charlie died; while Edward, in spite of the most skillful care and nursing that love and money could supply only lingered till early spring.”
“And the other boy, Auntie,” asked Harry, “what of him?”
“Well,” resumed Aunt Sarah, “he says ‘Tobacco never hurt me,’ but from being at the head of his class he has dropped down near the foot. Instead of being the industrious, ambitious, wide-awake boy of one year ago, he is now idle, careless, apathetic, enjoying nothing as much as what he calls a good smoke with some one as dull as himself.”
Nicotine poisoning shows itself in many forms, and often is not so quickly visible as in the cases I have mentioned; but you may be sure it is a viper that never forgets to bite. Like the alcohol curse there is no safety save in total abstinence from tobacco using. Avoid it as you would a deadly reptile.
–Word and Work