History of tobacco

History of tobacco

Tobacco has a long history from its usages in the early Americas. It became increasingly popular with the arrival of the Europeans in which it was heavily traded. Following the industrial revolution, cigarettes became popularized, which fostered yet another unparalleled increase in growth. This remained so until the the scientific revelations in the mid-1990s.

Early history

Las Casas vividly described how the first scouts sent by Columbus into the interior of Cuba found

"...men with half-burned wood in their hands and certain herbs to take their smokes, which are some dry herbs put in a certain leaf, also dry, like those the boys make on the day of the Passover of the Holy Ghost; and having lighted one part of it, by the other theysuck, absorb, or receive that smoke inside with the breath, by which they become benumbed and almost drunk, and so it is said they do not feel fatigue. These, muskets as we will call them, they call "tabacos". I knew Spaniards on this island of Española who were accustomed to take it, and being reprimanded for it, by telling them it was a vice, they replied they were unable to cease using it. I do not know what relish or benefit they found in it.""Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico" p. 768]

Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas by the time European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became popular. At high doses, tobacco can become hallucinogenic Fact|date=October 2007; accordingly, Native Americans did not always use the drug recreationally. Instead, it was often consumed as an entheogen; among some tribes, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men. Fact|date=May 2008 Eastern North American tribes would carry large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item and would often smoke it in pipes, either in defined ceremonies that were considered sacred, or to seal a bargain [eg. Heckewelder, "History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania", p. 149 ff.] , and they would smoke it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood ["They smoke with excessive eagerness ... men, women, girls and boys, all find their keenest pleasure in this way." - Dièreville describing the Mi'kmaq, c. 1699 in "Port Royal".] . It was believed that tobacco was a gift from the Creator and that the exhaled tobacco smoke was capable of carrying one's thoughts and prayers to heaven ["Tobacco: A Study of Its Consumption in the United States", Jack Jacob Gottsegen, 1940, p. 107.] .

Apart from smoking, tobacco had a number of uses as medicine. As a pain killer it was used for earache and toothache and occasionally as a poultice. Smoking was said by the desert Indians to be a cure for colds, especially if the tobacco was mixed with the leaves of the small Desert Sage, "Salvia Dorrii", or the root of Indian Balsam or Cough Root, "Leptotaenia multifida", the addition of which was thought to be particularly good for asthma and tuberculosis. [California Natural History Guides: 10. Early Uses of California Plant, By Edward K. Balls University of California Press, 1962 University of California Press. [http://www.tobacco.org/History/indiantobcalif.html] ] In addition to being smoked, uncured tobacco was often eaten, used in enemas, or drunk as extracted juice. Fact|date=May 2008 Early missionaries often reported on the ecstatic state caused by tobacco. As its use spread into Western cultures, however, it was no longer used primarily for entheogenic or religious purposes, although religious use of tobacco is still common among many indigenous peoples, particularly in the Americas. Among the Cree and Ojibway of Canada and the north-central United States, it is offered to the Creator, with prayers, and is used in sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies, smudging, and is presented as a gift. A gift of tobacco is tradition when asking an Ojibway elder a question of a spiritual nature. Because of its sacred nature, tobacco abuse (thoughtlessly and addictively chain smoking) is seriously frowned upon by the Algonquian tribes of Canada, as it is believed that if one so abuses the plant, it will abuse that person in return, causing sickness. The proper and traditional native way of offering the smoke is said to involve directing it toward the four cardinal points (north, south, east, and west), rather than holding it deeply within the lungs for prolonged periods [ [http://www.ayn.ca/quit/en/c3_1_spiritual_use.asp Aboriginal Youth Network / Health Canada, "A Tribe called Quit"] ] .

Rodrigo de Jerez was one of the Spanish crewmen who sailed to the Americas on the Santa Maria as part of Christopher Columbus's first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. He is credited with being the first European smoker.cn|date=October 2008

Growth and popularization

Following the arrival of Europeans, tobacco became one of the primary products fueling colonization, and also became a driving factor in the incorporation of African slave labor.

The Spanish introduced tobacco to Europeans in about 1518, and by 1523, Diego Columbus mentioned a tobacco merchant of Lisbon in his will, showing how quickly the traffic had sprung up. Nicot, French ambassador in Lisbon, sent samples to Paris in 1559. The French, Spanish, and Portuguese initially referred to the plant as the "sacred herb" because of its valuable medicinal properties.

In 1571, A Spanish doctor named Nicolas Monardes wrote a book about the history of medicinal plants of the new world. In this he claimed that tobacco could cure 36 health problems. [ [http://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/tobacco/history.htm#newworld The History of Tobacco ] ]
Sir Francis Drake is credited with taking the first "Virginia" tobacco to Europe, referring to it as "tobah" as early as 1578.

The importation of tobacco into Europe was not without resistance and controversy in the 17th century. Stuart King James I wrote a famous polemic titled "A Counterblaste to Tobacco" in 1604, in which the king denounced tobacco use as " [a] "custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse"." In that same year, an English statute was enacted that placed a heavy protective tariff on every pound of tobacco brought into England [ [http://www.laits.utexas.edu/poltheory/james/blaste/blaste.app.html A Law of James about Tobacco] ] .

In 1609, John Rolfe arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, and is credited as the first settler to have successfully raised tobacco (commonly referred to at that time as "brown gold") [ [http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/socialstudies/projects/jvc/overview.html Jamestown, Virginia: An Overview ] ] for commercial use. The tobacco raised in Virginia at that time, "Nicotiana rustica," Fact|date=May 2008 did not suit European tastes, but Rolfe raised a more popular variety, "Nicotiana tabacum", from seeds brought with him from Bermuda.Fact|date=May 2008 Tobacco was used as currency by the Virginia settlers for years, and Rolfe was able to make his fortune in farming it for export at Varina Farms Plantation. When he left for England with his wife, Pocahontas a daughter of Chief Powhatan, he had become wealthy. Returning to Jamestown, following Pocahontas' death in England, Rolfe continued in his efforts to improve the quality of commercial tobacco, and, by 1620, convert|40000|lb|kg pounds of tobacco were shipped to England. By the time John Rolfe died in 1622, Jamestown was thriving as a producer of tobacco, and its population had topped 4,000. Tobacco led to the importation of the colony's first black slaves in 1619. In the year 1616, convert|2500|lb|kg of tobacco were produced in Jamestown, Virginia, quickly rising up to convert|119000|lb|kg in 1620.Fact|date=May 2008

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco continued to be the cash crop of the Virginia Colony, as well as The Carolinas. Large tobacco warehouses filled the areas near the wharves of new, thriving towns such as Dumfries on the Potomac, Richmond and Manchester at the fall line (head of navigation) on the James, and Petersburg on the Appomattox.

Until 1883, tobacco excise tax accounted for one third of internal revenue collected by the United States government.Fact|date=May 2008

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown: ["A History of the United States since the Civil War" Volume: 1. by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer; 1917. P 93.]

As a lucrative crop, tobacco has been the subject of a great deal of biological and genetic research. The economic impact of Tobacco Mosaic disease was the impetus that led to the isolation of Tobacco mosaic virus, the first virus to be identifiedFact|date=May 2008; the fortunate coincidence that it is one of the simplest viruses and can self-assemble from purified nucleic acid and protein led, in turn, to the rapid advancement of the field of virology. The 1946 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared by Wendell Meredith Stanley for his 1935 work crystallizing the virus and showing that it remains active.

Tobacco as a commercial product first arrived in the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century. [Grehan, p.1] By 1700, it had reached Europe and Asia, and would soon arrive in the Middle EastGrehan, p.2] , where it was welcomed with the same enthusiasm with which coffee had been greeted, two centuries earlier.

When tobacco first arrived in the Ottoman Empire, it attracted the attention of doctors and became a commonly prescribed medicine for many ailments. Although tobacco was initially prescribed as medicine, further study led to claims that smoking caused dizziness, fatigue, dulling of the senses, and a foul taste/odour in the mouth. [Grehan, p.7]

In 1682, Damascene jurist Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi declared: “Tobacco has now become extremely famous in all the countries of Islam ... People of all kinds have used it and devoted themselves to it ... I have even seen young children of about five years applying themselves to it.”Grehan, p.3]

In 1750, a Damascene townsmen observed “a number of women greater than the men, sitting along the bank of the Barada River. They were eating and drinking, and drinking coffee and smoking tobacco just as the men were doing.”


Following the American civil war, the tobacco industry struggled as it attempts to adapt. Not only did the labor force change from slavery to sharecropping, but a change in demand also occurred. As in Europe, there was a desire for not only snuff, pipes and cigars, but cigarettes appeared as well.

With a change in demand and a change in labor force, James Bonsack, an avid craftsman, in 1881 created a machine that revolutionized cigarette production. The machine chopped the tobacco, then dropped a certain amount of the tobacco into a long tube of paper, which the machine would then roll and push out the end where it would be sliced by the machine into individual cigarettes. This machine operated at thirteen times the speed of a human cigarette roller. [Burns, p. 134.]

This caused an enourmous growth in the tobacco industry which remained so until the scientific revelations discovered the health consequences of smoking in the mid-20th century.Burns, pp. 134–135.]

Contemporary politics

To reduce the harm that tobacco has made to humankind, the World Health Organization(WHO) successfully rallied 168 countries to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003. [ [http://www.who.int/fctc/en/index.html WHO | WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) ] ] The Convention is designed to push for effective legislation and its enforcement in all countries to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco.In recent years, a lot of smoking cessation products with nicotine have emerged on the market, such as chewing gum and patches,Ruyan electronic cigarette, invented by Mr Hon Lik of Ruyan Group (Holdings) Limited.

See also

* Tobacco




* Burns, Eric. The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007.
* Grehan, James. “Smoking and “Early Modern” Sociability: The Great Tobacco Debate in the Ottoman Middle East (Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries)”. "The American Historical Review, Vol. III, Issue 5". 2006. 22 March 2008 http://www.historycooperative.org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/journals/ahr/111.5/grehan.html

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