What is the history of tobacco use?

The following is a timeline of the history of tobacco.

Before 1492: Tobacco was first used by the pre-Columbian Americans, who cultivated it for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

1492: Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean and observed the natives smoking and chewing tobacco. The Indians smoked tobacco through a Y shaped pipe called a Tobago. Christopher Columbus brought a few tobacco leaves and seeds back to Europe.

1556: Tobacco did not gain popularity until it was introduced to France in 1556, when Jean Nicot, a Frenchman, gave the tobacco seeds to Catherine de Medicis, the Queen of France. Plants grew from the seeds and were christened Nicotine tabacur after Jean Nicot's name. Later, the addictive substance was called nicotine[1].

1584: Sir Francis Drake, the famous explorer of California Coast, introduced tobacco to Sir Walter Raleigh, another well-known explorer of the Carolinas.

1612: The first commercial tobacco crop was grown in Virginia.

1619: The first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia to work the tobacco plantations. Later in 1661, slavery was officially legalized in Virginia.

1730: The first tobacco factories opened up to manufacture snuff.

1761: One of the first investigations about the relationship between tobacco and disease concluded that malignancies of the respiratory tract, including the nose, could be traced to the use of snuff.

1776: The American Revolution occurred in part because of "A Tobacco War." Colonists objected to the taxes levied on their tobacco products by British merchants. Tobacco also served as collateral during the American Revolution, which helped to finance the French involvement.

Mid-18th Century: "Big Tobacco" was born including its manufacturers Duke, Philip Morris, Liggett, and J.R. Reynolds. After the inventions of matches and later lighters, the number of cigarette smokers skyrocketed.

1861: Tobacco was issued along with food rations and drink to soldiers during the Civil War. Many Northerners were first introduced to tobacco during the Civil War. Hand-rolled cigarettes became popular. Before 1861, tobacco was generally smoked in pipes or cigars.

1864: The first cigarette factory was built in the United States.

1881: James E. Bonsack invented an automated cigarette making machine, sponsored by the Duke Company, which could produce 200 cigarettes per minute. Prior to this invention, 50 workers were required to produce 200 cigarettes. This invention markedly reduced the costs of production.

1906: Tobacco was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, thus eliminating The Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) ability to regulate tobacco use.

1909: Per capita smoking consumption grew, especially among men, who smoked mostly cigars and pipes.

1912: The first lobectomy for lung cancer was performed.

1917: During World War I, cigarettes were favored over pipes and cigars because they were more portable during combat. Between 1910 and 1919, the production of cigarettes increased by 633%.

1929: Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco performed six successful lobectomies. This was the start of modern thoracic surgery.

1933: The first successful pneumonectomy was performed for lung cancer.

1936: Dr Alan Oschner first saw lung cancer in 1919. Afterward, Oschner saw nine patients with lung cancer within a six month period. He concluded that the cause was cigarette smoking.

1945: It became socially acceptable for women to smoke. During World War II, The American Red Cross and other organizations distributed cigarettes to men and women in uniform.

1946: The "Golden Age" of advertising began promoting the use of cigarettes to the general public.

1954: The "Marlboro Man" ad was introduced by Phillip Morris, to promote the idea that men who smoke are more masculine and virile. The American Medical Association Board banned all advertising of tobacco and alcohol in their publications.

1959: The Surgeon General published the U.S. Public Health Services' position that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.

1964: The first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health was published. Ten scientists spent 14 months reviewing the scientific literature from all over the world. Per capita consumption dropped by 2% after the publication of the report. This report was pivotal in changing the smoking habits of Americans.

1971: Tobacco companies could no longer advertise in the broadcast media, which included television and radio. However, the ban did not include advertising in magazines and newspapers.

1986: The 19th Surgeon General's Report reported that smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff) is addictive.

1987: The U.S. Congress banned smoking on airline flights of less than two hours.

1992: Wayne McLaren, the world-famous "Marlboro Man," died of lung cancer at the age of 51.

1994: Mississippi became the first state to sue tobacco companies for the cost of health care associated with smoking-related diseases. Other states followed. FDA announced it could consider regulating nicotine in cigarettes as a drug in response to a Citizen's Petition by the Coalition on Smoking OR Health.

1996: FDA declared cigarettes to be "drug delivery devices." Restrictions were proposed on marketing and sales to reduce the incidence of smoking by young people.

1996: Scientists announced that they found a direct chemical link between a substance found in tobacco tar and the development of cancer. Lawsuits proliferated in Minnesota, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Florida for smokers seeking reimbursements from the states for the costs of medical care for smoking-related illnesses.

1997: Nonsmoking bars became the norm in California. In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors, with prodding from the San Francisco Medical Society and other anti-smoking and health-related groups, banned outdoor advertising of tobacco products.

1998: Forty-six States' attorney generals and the tobacco industry arrived at a settlement with four of the largest tobacco companies in the United States, known as the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). (More on MSA in Question 95.) The States agreed to limit further lawsuits against the tobacco industry in exchange for higher taxes on cigarettes to pay for the States' tobacco-related medical expenses. Tobacco companies also agreed to compensate the States $206 billion to establish tobacco smoking prevention programs.

1999: Phillip Morris admitted publicly that smoking causes cancer.

2000: The U.S. Supreme Court, upholding an earlier decision in the Food and Drug Administration v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. et al., ruled 5 to 4 that the FDA did not have authority to regulate tobacco as a drug. Within weeks of this ruling, FDA revoked its final rule, issued in 1996, that restricted the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents, and that determined that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are combination products consisting of a drug (nicotine) and device components intended to deliver nicotine to the body.

1950-2004: The proportion of adult smokers in the United States declined from a high of 46% in the 1950s to a low of 21% in 2004.

2004-2008: Smoking continues to decline in American society, but because of globalization, its use continues to grow internationally.

  • [1] A chemical found in a variety of plants that targets a specific group of acetylcholine receptors known as nicotinic receptors.
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