Use in ancient cultures
Aztec women are handed flowers and smoking tubes before eating at a banquet, Florentine Codex
, 16th century.
Smoking's history dates back to as early as 5000–3000 BC, when the agricultural product began to be cultivated in Mesoamerica and South America; consumption later evolved into burning the plant substance either by accident or with intent of exploring other means of consumption. The practice worked its way into shamanistic rituals. Many ancient civilizations – such as the Babylonians, the Indians, and the Chinese – burnt incense during religious rituals. Smoking in the Americas probably had its origins in the incense-burning ceremonies of shamans but was later adopted for pleasure or as a social tool. The smoking of tobacco and various hallucinogenic drugs was used to achieve trances and to come into contact with the spirit world.
Eastern North American tribes would carry large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item and would often smoke it in ceremonial pipes, either in sacred ceremonies or to seal bargains. Adults as well as children enjoyed the practice. 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.
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.
Gentlemen Smoking and Playing Backgammon in an Interior
by Dirck Hals
In 1612, six years after the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, John Rolfe was credited as the first settler to successfully raise tobacco as a cash crop. The demand quickly grew as tobacco, referred to as "brown gold", revived the Virginia joint stock company from its failed gold expeditions. In order to meet demands from the Old World, tobacco was grown in succession, quickly depleting the soil. This became a motivator to settle west into the unknown continent, and likewise an expansion of tobacco production. Indentured servitude became the primary labor force up until Bacon's Rebellion, from which the focus turned to slavery. This trend abated following the American Revolution as slavery became regarded as unprofitable. However, the practice was revived in 1794 with the invention of the cotton gin.
Frenchman Jean Nicot (from whose name the word nicotine is derived) introduced tobacco to France in 1560, and tobacco then spread to England. The first report of a smoking Englishman is of a sailor in Bristol in 1556, seen "emitting smoke from his nostrils". Like tea, coffee and opium, tobacco was just one of many intoxicants that was originally used as a form of medicine. Tobacco was introduced around 1600 by French merchants in what today is modern-day Gambia and Senegal. At the same time, caravans from Morocco brought tobacco to the areas around Timbuktu, and the Portuguese brought the commodity (and the plant) to southern Africa, establishing the popularity of tobacco throughout all of Africa by the 1650s.
Soon after its introduction to the Old World, tobacco came under frequent criticism from state and religious leaders. James VI and I, King of Scotland and England, produced the treatise A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604, and also introduced excise duty on the product. Murad IV, sultan of the Ottoman Empire 1623–40 was among the first to attempt a smoking ban by claiming it was a threat to public morals and health. The Chongzhen Emperor of China issued an edict banning smoking two years before his death and the overthrow of the Ming dynasty. Later, the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty, would proclaim smoking "a more heinous crime than that even of neglecting archery". In Edo period Japan, some of the earliest tobacco plantations were scorned by the shogunate as being a threat to the military economy by letting valuable farmland go to waste for the use of a recreational drug instead of being used to plant food crops.
Bonsack's cigarette rolling machine, as shown on U.S. patent 238,640.
Religious leaders have often been prominent among those who considered smoking immoral or outright blasphemous. In 1634, the Patriarch of Moscow forbade the sale of tobacco, and sentenced men and women who flouted the ban to have their nostrils slit and their backs flayed. Pope Urban VIII likewise condemned smoking on holy places in a papal bull of 1624. Despite some concerted efforts, restrictions and bans were largely ignored. When James I of England, a staunch anti-smoker and the author of A Counterblaste to Tobacco, tried to curb the new trend by enforcing a 4000% tax increase on tobacco in 1604 it was unsuccessful, as suggested by the presence of around 7,000 tobacco outlets in London by the early 17th century. From this point on for some centuries, several administrations withdrew from efforts at discouragement and instead turned tobacco trade and cultivation into sometimes lucrative government monopolies.
By the mid-17th century most major civilizations had been introduced to tobacco smoking and in many cases had already assimilated it into the native culture, despite some continued attempts upon the parts of rulers to eliminate the practice with penalties or fines. Tobacco, both product and plant, followed the major trade routes to major ports and markets, and then on into the hinterlands. The English language term smoking appears to have entered currency in the late 18th century, before which less abbreviated descriptions of the practice such as drinking smoke were also in use.
Growth in the US remained stable until the American Civil War in 1860s, when the primary agricultural workforce shifted from slavery to sharecropping. This, along with a change in demand, accompanied the industrialization of cigarette production as craftsman James Bonsack created a machine in 1881 to partially automate their manufacture.
Social attitudes and public health
smoking at Skeeter's Branch, St. Louis, MO. Photograph by Lewis Hine, 1910
In Germany, anti-smoking groups, often associated with anti-liquor groups, first published advocacy against the consumption of tobacco in the journal Der Tabakgegner (The Tobacco Opponent) in 1912 and 1932. In 1929, Fritz Lickint of Dresden, Germany, published a paper containing formal statistical evidence of a lung cancer–tobacco link. During the Great Depression Adolf Hitler condemned his earlier smoking habit as a waste of money, and later with stronger assertions. This movement was further strengthened with Nazi reproductive policy as women who smoked were viewed as unsuitable to be wives and mothers in a German family.
The anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany did not reach across enemy lines during the Second World War, as anti-smoking groups quickly lost popular support. By the end of the Second World War, American cigarette manufacturers quickly reentered the German black market. Illegal smuggling of tobacco became prevalent, and leaders of the Nazi anti-smoking campaign were silenced. As part of the Marshall Plan, the United States shipped free tobacco to Germany; with 24,000 tons in 1948 and 69,000 tons in 1949. Per capita yearly cigarette consumption in post-war Germany steadily rose from 460 in 1950 to 1,523 in 1963. By the end of the 20th century, anti-smoking campaigns in Germany were unable to exceed the effectiveness of the Nazi-era climax in the years 1939–41 and German tobacco health research was described by Robert N. Proctor as "muted".
A lengthy study conducted in order to establish the strong association necessary for legislative action (US cigarette consumption per person blue, male lung cancer rate green)
In 1950, Richard Doll published research in the British Medical Journal showing a close link between smoking and lung cancer. Beginning in December 1952, the magazine Reader's Digest published "Cancer by the Carton", a series of articles that linked smoking with lung cancer.
In 1954, the British Doctors Study, a prospective study of some 40 thousand doctors for about 2.5 years, confirmed the suggestion, based on which the government issued advice that smoking and lung cancer rates were related. In January 1964, the United States Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health likewise began suggesting the relationship between smoking and cancer.
As scientific evidence mounted in the 1980s, tobacco companies claimed contributory negligence as the adverse health effects were previously unknown or lacked substantial credibility. Health authorities sided with these claims up until 1998, from which they reversed their position. The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, originally between the four largest US tobacco companies and the Attorneys General of 46 states, restricted certain types of tobacco advertisement and required payments for health compensation; which later amounted to the largest civil settlement in United States history.
Social campaigns have been instituted in many places to discourage smoking, such as Canada's National Non-Smoking Week.
From 1965 to 2006, rates of smoking in the United States declined from 42% to 20.8%. The majority of those who quit were professional, affluent men. Although the per-capita number of smokers decreased, the average number of cigarettes consumed per person per day increased from 22 in 1954 to 30 in 1978. This paradoxical event suggests that those who quit smoked less, while those who continued to smoke moved to smoke more light cigarettes. The trend has been paralleled by many industrialized nations as rates have either leveled-off or declined. In the developing world, however, tobacco consumption continues to rise at 3.4% in 2002. In Africa, smoking is in most areas considered to be modern, and many of the strong adverse opinions that prevail in the West receive much less attention. Today Russia leads as the top consumer of tobacco followed by Indonesia, Laos, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Jordan, and China.