When someone is "blowing smoke up your arse" today, it is a figure of speech that means that one person is complimenting another, insincerely most of the time, in order to inflate the ego of the individual being flattered. Back in the late 1700s, however, doctors literally blew smoke up people's rectums.
Humans have been pursuing this elusive quality known as "beauty" long before the miracles of modern medicine. Inventors were always coming up with tools meant to help women—and men—achieve the wide-held physical ideals of their era. Eager test subjects would get hooked up to devices that looked like torture machines, or they would employ products that contained poison. You can be sure that, when it came to results, most of these people ended up disappointed.