TOBACCO: Part 1
Explorer Marco Polo, in 1275, describes the first use of cannabis in the Moslem world. In 1453, another explorer, not content with such mere reportage, leads the Portuguese government into the international drug trade as Constantinople falls.
Yet another famous explorer, Christopher Columbus, the noted murderer of native Americans, expounds upon his "discovery" of tobacco when he is introduced to the deadly carcenigenic leaves by the natives of San Salvador in late 1492.
The following year Columbus and his scurvy crew rush to introduce the cancer-causer to all of Europe. What he doesn't slaughter by sword, he does so with smoke. The next year, 1496, Columbus is at it again, this time extolling the uses of a hallucinogenic snuff called "cohaba" by the natives on his second voyage.
In 1499 explorer Americo Vespucci visits an island near Venezuala and advertises the natives' use of nicotine intake by chewing tobacco instead of just smoking it. We have reports like this to thank for future mouth cancer cases in professional sports and elsewhere.
Another mass-murderer like Columbus, explorer Cortez was also strangely hailed as a hero instead. In 1518, this Spanish "conquerer" (slaughterer) of the native people of Mexico, orders the making of wine to become an industry. The following year, Cortez and his thugs observe the ceremonial Aztec smoking practice, and brings back more tobacco leaves to Europe, adding to the collection brought back by Columbus 25 years earlier.
In 1535 Jacques Cartier files a report about native North American indians smoking during his journey along the St. Lawrence river. He is quoted as saying that although it had a pepper-like taste to the white men when they first tried it, the indians say "the habit is most wholesome."
Two years later, tobacco is sanctioned to be used medicinally throughout Europe. Soonafter, in 1542, the Portuguese introduce tobacco into Japan, a country where up until then cancer was virtually unheard of.
While not exactly a noted explorer, the often-travelling French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, becomes another fan of native tobacco use, to which the Portuguese are already addicted. He brings this poinsonous material back with him to the royal court as a "gift," and instead of being punished Nicot is rewarded by having the substance contained in the killer plant named after him: hence the name "nicotine."
British explorer Sir John Hawkins, in 1565, brings back his tobacco samples from the natives he met during his travels, and introduces the plant to England.
It takes awhile to catch on, but eight years later, the practice of smoking becomes popular when the dashing Sir Francis Drake brings his tobacco goods to England, and begins planting it for the first time on European soil.
In 1586, the first large commercial farming of tobacco in England is undertaken. Where in England? Why, Gloucestershire, of course; Edward the Elder (see Alcohol section) would have appreciated that irony, if he'd been sober.
One can see that by the early 1500s, the deadly pattern had been set up: one or two explorers have bartered to get ceremonial tobacco from a few tribes; then they've brought it back to promote it for widespread use instead (sadly, this scenario was not limited only to tobacco).
Huge populations of the white man became addicted and demanded more of the substance from the indians, thus starting up an entire poison-producing industry. This lead to many more explorers, many more exploited indian tribes, and so on. The final touch was fueled by the need to bypass international problems; countries began in earnest in the early 1600s to grow their own tobacco plant crops.
And where is the famous Sir Walter Raleigh during this puffing frenzy? In 1587, he is recorded as taking tobacco to Ireland, which wags may say is what stunted the Leprachauns' growth. He is, however, wrongly titled as the first tobacco promoter, when actually Drake was the culprit. Raleigh did, however, jump on the bandwagon once the initial fad had already begun and claim as much noteriety as possible, as have many other false celebrities down through the ages.
For this reason, he joins the ranks of other overly publicized, non-discoverers in history, such as Columbus (the United States), Doubleday (the game of baseball), and Marconi (the radio). The men who are documented as actually deserving the true credit for those things were, respectively, the Viking explorer known as Erik the Red (Norway), Alexander Cartwright (Britain), and Nicola Tesla (Yugoslavia).
During the l600s, tobacco spreads quickly into many other countries, including Italy, Turkey, Poland and India. The "fad" is becoming an institution, with no end in sight.
In 1610, England establishes an official "tobacco colony" on behalf of the crown in Virginia.
London, England is the site for the formation of the Company of Distillers when they incorporate in 1638.
In 1642, due to a reported "scarcity of coins," the notorious colony of Virginia begins acting like the prisoners (to substance abuse) they are: a statute is declared that allows for the use of tobacco as money.
In 1605, tobacco is introduced by Europe to India. Although the court physician correctly advises India's King against the substance, the monarch fatally decides to take the Europeans' assurances of safety instead, because, as he said, "Europeans wouldn't do anything foolish," which shows how much India's royalty knew about Europeans: zero.
1674 is the year France enters the drug picture, tobacco-wise, in a big way. They bypass any free enterprise whatsoever in this area by declaring all cultivation and sale of tobacco to be under a state monopoly.
In 1832 an Eqyptian cannoneer (at the siege of the Turkish city of Acre) provides the first reported example of smoking a rolled paper cigarette.
In 1843 the French government expands its local tobacco monopoly to include the international cigarette industry. This popularization elevates the lowly cigarette from its previous status of being (as it was called in Spain) a mere "begger's smoke."
For a brief period in the 1700s snuff is in vogue. In 1724 tobacco user pope Benedict XIII revokes all rules against smoking and allows snuff taking in St. Peters Basilica.
In 1761, England's Queen Charlotte finds that her personal tobacco addiction earns her the nickname of "Snuffy Charlotte" - "they" were not amused, as the royal expression goes.
A young general during the American revolution popularizes this phrase in 1776: "If you can't send money, send tobacco." Yes, it's George Washington again.
In 1854, cigarettes are introduced into the United States.
In 1856, Robert Gloag becomes Britain's first cigarette manufacturer.
Meanwhile, at nicotine central (aka Virginia, USA), the loose-leaf tobacco auction market is established in 1858 by Thomas Neal and others in Danville.
In 1860, a man wins a bet by smoking 100 regular-sized cigars in 12 hours. It remains undetermined whether or not the man may have been George Burns or Groucho Marx.
Go To TOBACCO: Part 2