Tobacco cultivation is estimated to have begun in 5000 BC when Central Mexico began development of maize agriculture. Originally used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies, its analgesic properties were widely sought after for toothaches, wounds and injuries. It is believed that Tobacco is one of the world’s oldest know pain killers.
Introduction in Europe
In 1492, Native Americans were believed to have offered dried Tobacco leaves to Christopher Columbus as a gift, following which sailors brought it to Europe. It struck up instant popularity there, with people widely describing its analgesic properties. In 1571, a Spanish doctor named Nicolas Monardes claimed Tobacco could cure 36 health problems. In the 1600’s, Tobacco was also frequently used as a monetary instrument of trade.
18th Century – 19th Century
In 1760, Pierre Lorillard founded a company (P. Lorillard) in New York, which is the world’s oldest American Tobacco company.
Tobacco has had its role even in war finance, with the American Revolutionary war of 1776 having seen Tobacco as a collateral for loans America borrowed from France.
Though Tobacco smoking’s hazards were realized as early as the 1600’s, it is only in 1826, when the pure form of Nicotine was discovered, it finally began being discussed as a health hazard. At this point, Nicotine was classified as a poison.
In 1846, Phillip Morris established itself as a brand by selling hand rolled cigarettes. Cigarettes became popular around this time when soldiers brought it back to England from Russian and Turkish soldiers.
Tobacco Usage Normalisation
With the onset of World War 1(1914 – 1918), Tobacco use became the norm rather than the exception, with rampant cigarette use amongst soldiers. Marketing cigarettes towards women began with the introduction of “Lucky Strikes” by American Tobacco Company. During World War 2(1939 – 1945), cigarettes were often part of soldier’s rations. By the late 1940’s, 8 out of 10 British men and 4 out of 10 British women were smokers.
Health Awareness and Regulation
By the 1950’s, more evidence had surfaced linking tobacco smoking to lung cancer, but to circumvent this, cigarette companies began advertising products with “filters” and “lower tar”. In 1964, the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” was published, which assisted the government to regulate sale and advertisement of cigarettes.
Owing to the negative publicity of Tobacco, cigarette manufacturers like Phillip Morris and American Tobacco Company began diversifying their businesses into other avenues like the Miller Brewing Company (Miller Beer) and American Brands.
Current State of Affairs
The 1980s saw many lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry for its harmful effects. Smoking in public spaces was banned. The Surgeon General reported the dangers of passive smoke and smoking in workplaces was restricted. Cigarette companies continued diversifying into other businesses to draw attention away from the negative publicity, whilst making profits from direct sale of cigarettes.
Today, Tobacco smoking remains one the leading causes of preventable death worldwide, estimated at 7 million deaths per year. It is projected that world over, there are a billion smokers who on average will die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
Ref 1: https://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/tobacco/history.htm
Ref 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tobacco
Ref 3: https://www.swedish.org/classes-and-resources/smoking-cessation/history-of-tobacco-use-in-america
Ref 4: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm