Tobacco History

The origins of tobacco are believed to root back as early as 6,000 B.C. as it was a naturally growing plant in North and South America and was used in many religious and medicinal practices by native Americans.

Allegedly, the native aborigines of Australia were the earliest people who used tobacco similarly to how it is used today. They powdered the leaves, then ash was mixed and chewed, to get a more bitter taste. As the aborigines traveled from one location to another the tobacco and nicotine they consumed acted as a stimulant and cover up for hunger in deserted places.

Tobacco Enters Commerce

In 1492, dried tobacco leaves were offered as a gift from the Indians on the isle of Hispaniola to Christopher Columbus as a gift. Soon after, Spanish sailors brought the seeds back to Europe where the plant was quickly accepted and farming the substance begun. By the early 1600’s tobacco was even being used as a currency for trade. Even as late as 1776, during the American Revolution, tobacco was being used to finance the military through collateral loans from France.

Tobacco was first introduced by the Spaniards to the European people in the 1500’s. It was primarily endorsed as a medicine against physical conditions such as asthma, toothache, and even for ulcerated wounds. In 1561, a French ambassador to the country Portugal named Jean Nicot sent seeds of this particular tobacco plant to the honorable royal family of France. It was from his name Nicot that Nicotiana was derived. Eventually, an alkaloid drug popularly called nicotine was developed and discovered in the 19th century. It was then later researched and studied that aside from tobacco there are 66 various species of plants that actually have a nicotine content.
Just a few years Later, scientists became aware of what chemicals are in tobacco and the dangers to our health. Later on, they came up with a conclusion that nicotine could be extracted from the plant and considered it a dangerous poison.

In 1875, R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company was established to produce chewing tobacco. Some people chewed tobacco, some smoked it in a pipe and there were some who hand-rolled cigarettes and cigars. Around the 1900’s, the cigarette became the major tobacco product which was made and sold. With its popularity, there were groups pushing the anti-tobacco campaign but the market grew and the United States manufactured and exported more tobacco compared to other countries until the 1960s.

Health Concerns Grow amongst Medial Factions

Initially, the negative health effects of tobacco were unknown. Then, in the 1960s, there were reports of the health hazards of smoking. In 1966, general health warnings on cigarette packages started to show up due to governing bodies and growing public awareness. And in 1971, television advertisements in the U.S. were taken off the air further weakening the reach of Big Tobacco.

In 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act. With this, cigarette companies are asked to change their warning labels on cigarette packs every three months. Since 1990, smoking has been banned on airplane flights in the United States that are 6 hours or less. Also, during the 80’s and 90’s, the tobacco companies started to market outside the United States due to the added restraints. Almost 50% of the sales of the U.S. tobacco companies go to Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines and Taiwan.

See Tobacco Facts