History of smoking | Inquirer News
Heart to Heart Talk

History of smoking

/ 08:32 AM October 03, 2011

THE INTERESTING history of smoking tells us a lot about man, about ourselves as a people, as a nation, and about human beings on planet Earth in general.

The original form of tobacco was native only to the Americas, which they started growing as early as 6000 BC, but it was in 1000 BC when people started chewing and smoking tobacco. The first recorded smoker in Europe was Rodrigo de Jerez in 1493 AD, a fellow explorer of Christopher Columbus, who enjoyed the New World version of the Cuban cigar. When de Jerez returned home and smoked in public, he was jailed for three years by the Spanish Inquisition, the first victim of the anti-smoking law at the time.

Obviously, the Spanish people then were much ahead of their time (more than 3000 plus years ahead of us today) in the campaign against the killer tobacco.


The most probable individuals who brought tobacco to England were Sir john Hawkins, first English slave trader (1532-1595), and Sir Francis Drake (1541-1596), the first sea captain to sail around the globe. Although he popularized tobacco in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was mistakenly thought to have been the first one to introduce this substance to England. It was approximately in 1565 when the first shipment of tobacco reached England. Commercial production of tobacco  in the United States started in the 17th century.


In his treatise, King James I (1566-1625) described the tobacco plants as “an invention of Satan.” In Russia, Michael Feodorovich (1596-1645), the first Romnov Czar “declared the use of tobacco a deadly sin in Russia and forbade possession for any purpose…usual punishment were slitting of the lips or a terrible and sometimes fatal flogging. … and in Turkey, Persia, and India, the death penalty was prescribed as a cure for the habit.”

In the 1600, “although banned by His Holiness Pope Clement VIII, who threatened anyone who smoked in a holy place with excommunication,” smoking continued to become popular.

More than 300 years later, in 1912, Dr. Isaac Adler observed a significant increase in lung cancers among smokers. Ten years later, “15 states in the USA had banned the sale, manufacture, possession, advertising, and/or use of cigarettes….In 1927, Kansas became the last state to repeal its ban,” after the tobacco companies used physicians in their advertisement to counteract the grave concerns over the health risks.

Today, it sounds absurd that the Journal of the American Medical Association allowed in 1933 Ligget & Myers tobacco company to advertise in this medical publication. That went on for the next two decades, proclaiming the health benefits of their brands. The last two companies to run Ads in the JAMA were Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds in 1953.

It was 48 years after the link between tobacco and lung cancer was noted by Dr. Adler that the “Journal of the American Medical Association, in 1950, published the results of the first major study of Dr. Morton Levin definitely linking smoking to lung cancer.”

Since 1918, American soldier’s daily rations included cigarettes, until it was stopped in 1975.


Surgeon General Luther L. Terry on January 11, 1964, “released the report of a national committee aided by more than 150 consultants that concluded cigarette smoking was responsible for a 70 percent increase in the mortality rate of smokers over nonsmokers.” Most of these were from cancer of the lung. At that time, more than 42 percent of Americans were smokers. In 2009, this has decreased to 21 percent (about 46 million), which is still 21 percent too many.

In 1987, the United States congress banned smoking on airline flights of less than 2 hours. On April 5, 2000, a law was passed in the United States banning smoking on all flights to and from the USA.

In 1998, 46 states accepted $206-billion settlement with cigarette companies over health costs for treating sick smokers. In 2000, punitive damages of about $145 billion against tobacco firms was awarded by a jury in a class action suit in Florida.

The family of smoking victim Jesse Williams was awarded $81 million in punitive damages by the jury in Portland, Oregon, against Philip Morris, but this was reduced by a judge to $32 million in 2002.

On March 31, 2003, New York City has banned smoking in all public places. Most of the states have now banned smoking in public places in one form or another. Many major cities around the world have followed suit.

In a previous column dated July 23, 2007, this was what we reported:

“Worldwide, a billion people will die from smoking this century, according to the World Health Organization.

“Smoking kills. It is that plain and simple. There is no more doubt today that tobacco (cigarette smoking) is the predominant cause of lung cancer, besides other malignancies and cardiovascular diseases that maim, kill men and women and hurt our society, especially our children. In the United States alone, almost half a million die each year from smoking-related illnesses. These are preventable deaths! Demographic studies have shown that smokers are about 10 times more prone to die premature deaths than non-smokers. This unnecessary loss of lives is at an immense direct cost for non-smokers in terms of increased health risks from passive smoking, in higher health insurance premiums and taxes, not to mention personal and family tragedies in all shapes and forms.”

“As we have alluded to before, secondhand smoke is even more dangerous. Innocent bystanders are forced to inhale cigarette smoke at their workplaces or in public places, thus increasing their health risk. In one stick of cigarette, there are about 4000 chemicals and 200 of them cancerous. The Environmental Protection Agency engineers have shown that even the best available ventilation and air-moving equipment were unable to reduce carcinogenic (cancer-causing) air contamination to a safe level for a non-smoker sharing work space with a habitual smoker. Physical isolation of the tobacco addict is most essential as shown by these scientific studies.”

We have likewise stated in another article that smoking a puff or two, or inhaling secondhand smoke, will instantly, within minutes not years,

damage part of our DNA. It is, indeed, very scary, since news about non-smokers who developed lung cancer and died from it is very common.

But, as I have critically pointed out in the past,

designating a smoking section in a restaurant, casino, or of any public building is like providing a urinating area in a section of a swimming pool. A smoking area must be a separate building with a dedicated ventilation and exhaust system of its own.

To those who smoke, it is never too late to quit.

Giving up cigarettes is very tough but getting cancer is a lot tougher.

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TAGS: Health, Smoking, Tobacco

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