The history of smoking

During the Second World War, even the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, who called it a waste of money and backed numerous anti-tobacco movements in Germany, didn’t succeed in extinguishing the habit. 

During the Second World War, even the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, who called it a waste of money and backed numerous anti-tobacco movements in Germany, didn’t succeed in extinguishing the habit. 

Globally, an estimated 1.22 billion people are believed to be smokers. And with more men compared to women likely to smoke, one might wonder how humans started lighting cigarettes to inhale tobacco smoke.

The habit didn’t start with tobacco being rolled in form of cigarettes or cigars. Smoking is said to have started as a primitive practice before it later became a habit and with its addictive qualities it was able to spread across the multitudes.

According to historians, smoking started during the ancient times between 5000-3000B.C.

Tobacco and other hallucinogenic drugs like opium were burnt as incense and inhaled to create trances that were primitively thought to connect people to the spirit world.

These practices are said to have originated from early civilizations like the Chinese, Greek, Babylonians and Mayans. The burning of incense to date is practiced by religious sects such as the Jews, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

Tobacco, specifically, was largely grown in North America and soon became one of the items of trade.

At that time tobacco was significant in societal beliefs; it was either smoked during sacred ceremonies or used to close a bargain. Dry tobacco was rolled into pipes and lit to be smoked.

According to the American Indians, tobacco was a gift from God and its smoke was capable of carrying their thoughts and prayers to heaven. Later, they discovered the medicinal side of tobacco.

They found that it was a pain killer and used it to ease earache and toothache. Later, the desert Indians used tobacco as an additive to cure colds.

In 1560 Jean Nicot, from whose name was derived the word Nicotine (the drug in the tobacco leaves that causes the addiction) introduced tobacco to France and from there it infiltrated into England.

In 1612, tobacco was popularized as a cash crop in America. It became a lucrative commodity that was one of those crops grown on large scale which increased the need for slavery.

Later, in 1600, tobacco as a commercial product was first shipped into Africa through the present day Gambia and Senegal by French merchants. And by the 1650s, Portuguese caravans into Southern Africa are said to have also popularized the crop.

In the following years, tobacco was criticized and first bans were enforced. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the Chinese Emperor in 1623-40 were the first leaders to attempt to ban smoking claiming that it was a threat to moral and public health.

In 1634 a particular brutal ban by the Patriarch of Moscow, a religious leader, was enforced. He considered smoking blasphemous and immoral and proposed a ban on the sale of tobacco and once one was caught smoking their nostrils were to be slit and their backs whipped until the skin peeled off.

In England, taxes were increased on tobacco to discourage consumption but it was without success. With smoking’s popularity spreading like wild fire, it infiltrated into each nook and cranny of popular culture- making attempts by leaders to erase the practice fruitless.

During the Second World War, even the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, calling it a waste of money and backing numerous anti-tobacco movements in Germany, didn’t succeed in extinguishing the habit. 

It was in the 1950’s that Richard Doll, a British doctor, presented an initial study closely linking smoking to lung cancer. But tobacco companies argued there was insufficient evidence to back the study.

But in 1998, Attorney Generals in 46 states united against the tobacco companies. In what was called a Tobacco Master Agreement Settlement, the attorneys engaged the tobacco companies and agreed among others on the kind of marketing practices and medical costs were agreed on to cater for smoking related diseases.

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