Tobacco Alcohol and Caffeine—Centuries of Use - Tobacco
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When Christopher Columbus and his crew arrived in the "New World" in 1492, he wrote of the indigenous peoples "perfuming" themselves by puffing on "a lighted firebrand." The Indians inhaled smoke through a Y-shaped tube called a tobaca or tobago, which are thought to be possible origins for the name of the tobacco plant.
As European settlers came to North America, Native Americans introduced them to tobacco, which is indigenous to North America and was an important part of Native American social and religious customs at that time. It was used to communicate with the sacred spirits, to produce visions, and to initiate new shamans (medicine men). Additionally, Native Americans believed that tobacco had medicinal properties, so it was used to treat pain, epilepsy, colds, and headaches.
From Pipes to Cigarettes
The use of tobacco, chewed or smoked in pipes, spread quickly throughout Europe during the sixteenth century. In 1560 Jean Nicot (for whom nicotine is named), counselor to the king of France, introduced tobacco to his country. Ben Jonson (1572-1637), an English poet and dramatist, said, "Tobacco, I do assert … is the most soothing, sovereign and precious weed that ever our dear old mother Earth tendered to the use of man!" Smoking spread as far as Turkey, Russia, and China, although many countries prohibited the use of tobacco.
Despite the disapproval of Louis XIV of France, snuff became fashionable in France during his reign (1643-1715). Snuff is a powdered tobacco that can be chewed, rubbed on the gums, or inhaled through the nose, the process that gave it its name (to snuff means to draw in through the nose).
Cigar smoking was introduced to the United States about 1762. A cigar consists of small rolls of tobacco leaves. Cigars became very popular, and by 1898 the yearly U.S. consumption of cigars exceeded four billion, according to various tobacco-related Web sites.
Cigarettes, narrow tubes of cut tobacco enclosed in paper, originated in Brazil during the early 1800s. By the mid-1800s cigarette smoking was popular in Spain, France, and the United States, although most American tobacco users smoked cigars or chewed tobacco. In 1881, however, the cigarette-making machine was invented. It could manufacture 200 cigarettes per minute, or 120,000 in a ten-hour day. Ultimately, mass production meant that cigarettes could be produced more cheaply and in larger numbers.
Despite its widespread popularity, tobacco use was not always greeted with enthusiastic approval. James I of England (1603-1625) personally disapproved of tobacco use, forbade tobacco planting in England, and taxed the importation of tobacco. Russia and Turkey outlawed the use of tobacco, imposing penalties of mutilation or even death. A 1683 Chinese law threatened tobacco users with beheading. Frederick the Great of Prussia forbade his mother to use snuff at his 1790 coronation. Louis XV banned snuff from the court of France.
Popes Innocent X and Urban VIII excommunicated smokers from the Roman Catholic Church. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1837-1901) hated the tobacco habit and tried unsuccessfully to outlaw it from the British army. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an early health advocate and inventor of the Graham cracker, advised total abstinence from both alcohol and tobacco in order to maintain good health.
Antismoking Efforts in the United States
In the United States the first antismoking movement was organized in the 1830s (just as the temperance movement was growing in the country). In his book For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health (New York: Free Press, 1998), Jacob Sullum describes preachers lecturing on the evils of "the filthy weed" and maintaining that smokers were "men possessed, who are in need of exorcising." Reformers characterized tobacco as an unhealthy and even fatal habit. Tobacco use was linked to increased alcohol use and lack of cleanliness. Antismoking reformers also suggested that tobacco exhausted the soil, wasted money, and promoted laziness, promiscuity, and profanity. It was even blamed for causing baldness and the reading of novels, then considered an unwholesome pastime.
The Civil War (1861-65) and the Spanish-American War (1898)—and the political and social changes that came with them—further challenged reform movements. In 1892 reformers petitioned Congress to prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of cigarettes. The Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases agreed that cigarette use was a public health concern but concluded that each state must regulate tobacco matters for itself. By the late 1800s, four states had outlawed cigarette sales to both adults and minors. These bans were later lifted.
Cigarette usage increased dramatically in the early 1900s, with total consumption increasing from 2.5 billion in 1901 to 13.2 billion in 1912, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By 1919 cigarette consumption reached forty-eight billion. In 1913 the R. J. Reynolds company introduced Camel cigarettes, an event that is often called the birth of the modern cigarette. During World War I (1914-18) cigarettes were shipped to troops fighting overseas (this also occurred during World War II from 1939 to 1945). They were included in soldiers' rations and were dispensed by groups such as the American Red Cross and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). As a sign of rebellion, women began openly smoking in larger numbers as well, something tobacco companies surely noticed. In 1919 the first advertisement featuring a woman smoking cigarettes appeared.
In July 1957, following a joint report by the National Cancer Institute, the National Heart Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association, U.S. Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney (a smoker himself) delivered a cautious statement that "the weight of the evidence is increasingly pointing in one direction: that excessive smoking is one of the causative factors in lung cancer." Nevertheless, cigarette ads of the 1950s touted cigarette smoking as pleasurable, sexy, relaxing, flavorful, and fun.
On January 11, 1964, Luther L. Terry released the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health. This landmark document was America's first widely publicized official recognition that cigarette smoking is a cause of cancer and other serious diseases. On the basis of more than seven thousand scientific articles, the report concluded that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.
Increased attention was paid to the potential health risks of smoking throughout the rest of the 1960s and the 1970s. The first health warnings appeared on cigarette packages in 1966. In 1970 the World Health Organization (WHO) took a public stand against smoking. On January 1, 1971, the Cigarette Act of 1969 went into effect, removing cigarette advertising from radio and television. A growing number of individuals, cities, and states filed lawsuits against American tobacco companies. Some individuals claimed they had been deceived about the potential harm of smoking. Some states filed lawsuits to recoup money spent on smokers' Medicaid bills. In 1998 forty-six states, five territories, and the District of Columbia signed an agreement (Master Settlement Agreement) with the major tobacco companies to settle all state lawsuits for $206 billion. Excluded from the settlement were Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas, which had already concluded previous settlements with the tobacco industry. (See Chapter 8 for more information on the Master Settlement Agreement.)