History of Tobacco
Early Use and TradeThe Tobacco plant is native to the Americas and part of the Nightshade family, of which some are edible (i.e. potatoes, peppers) and some are extremely poisonous (i.e. Deadly Nightshade). As early as 1 B.C., Native Americans began using tobacco for religious and medicinal purposes. When explorers from Europe encountered the Americas in the late 1400’s, they were given dried tobacco leaves as gifts by the natives, which were then brought back by sailors and traded. Over the next two centuries the popularity of tobacco among Europeans and settlers in the Americas would grow significantly. People believed Tobacco to be a cure-all with magic healing properties, which of course, we know today to be wildly inaccurate.
American Tobacco Companies Cash InIn 1760, America’s first Tobacco company, P. Lorillard, was established in New York City to process cigars and snuff. Today it is the oldest tobacco company in the U.S. Even in these times, scientists were learning about the chemicals in tobacco and the ill effects it can have on health. In 1826 the pure form of nicotine was found and scientists soon learned that it is a dangerous poison. Fast forward to the 1900’s where dozens of brands are fighting for market share with misleading and manipulative advertising methods. Claims about the health benefits of smoking are rampant in advertisements despite numerous scientific studies on the adverse effects.
Health Effects Become Public KnowledgeIt isn’t until 1964 that the U.S. Surgeon General reports on the dangers of smoking and triggers a cascade effect of regulation on how Tobacco companies can advertise their products. By the 1980’s smoking is considered “politically incorrect” and bans on smoking in public places begin to roll out. In 1987, the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, particularly for the youth. Today, growing evidence shows that Tobacco companies have known about the ill effects of smoking all along. It is believed they knew very well how addictive nicotine was and chose to exploit it for monetary gain.
Facts About Tobacco Use and Addiction
- Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death with more than 7 million deaths per year worldwide.
- Smoking kills 480,000 people per year in the United States, 41,000 of which are from secondhand smoke.
- On average, a smoker’s life expectancy is 10 years less than that of a non-smoker
- Every day in the US, 2000 children and teens under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. And every day 300 people under 18 years become daily smokers.