How people started smoking: the story of the “tobacco epidemic” in pictures


“The tobacco epidemic is one of the most significant threats to public health ever encountered in the world,” such a statement is published on the WHO website, and it is not without foundation. According to statistics, up to 8 million people die every year from tobacco smoking, and some of these people die as a result of the so-called “passive smoking”. Humanity learned to smoke tobacco a long time ago, and it happened far from developed civilizations. It is believed that the Indians, representatives of the indigenous people of America, were the first to smoke. Europeans learned about smoking tobacco from them – in 1492, a bunch of leaves fell into the hands of Christopher Columbus. This was the first impetus for the outbreak of an epidemic that annually claims the lives of millions of men and women. All people are well aware of the dangers of smoking, but still continue to do so. Questions arise: why is this happening, and when will humanity quit smoking? We have all the answers.

What people invented smoking tobacco

Mankind has been addicted to smoking tobacco for a very long time, about 4000 BC. The first cigarettes were made by the natives of America – the Indians not only smoked the leaves, but also chewed and even injected tobacco with enemas. Scientists know for sure that tobacco smoking was the norm among the Mayan people, because a fragment of ceramics with a smoking aborigine was found in the ancient city of Waxatun. Smoking among the Indians was considered a sacred ritual and was practiced at religious holidays, helping to “communicate with spirits.”

Tobacco smoking began with the Indians

Previously, pipes were used to smoke tobacco – some nations still use these devices.

Tobacco smoking in Europe

In October 1492, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus took his first steps on American soil. He and his team met the Indians and they gave Columbus a bundle of dried tobacco leaves. But the researcher did not understand what these leaves were for and simply threw the gift overboard the Santa Maria ship. But expedition member Rodrigo de Jerez figured out how to use tobacco, and it cost him his life. No, he did not fall ill with a terrible disease – the Spaniards saw smoke coming out of his mouth, considered him possessed by the devil and killed him.

Indians teach Europeans to smoke tobacco

But thirty years later, Europeans got used to tobacco. In 1531, the Spaniards began to grow it on the island of Santo Domingo, and twenty years later tobacco seeds appeared in Brazil and France.

Tobacco (Nicotiána) belongs to the Solanaceae family.

As time went on, Europeans began to consider tobacco smoking almost a wellness procedure. It was believed that its leaves help to cope with colic, hysteria, dysentery, headache and even cancer. In 1587, The Herbal Panacea was published and physicians began to prescribe tobacco as a medicine.

Page of the book “Plant Panacea”

For decades, Europeans smoked tobacco with pipes and other devices. The first cigarettes appeared in 1620, but they were rolled cigarettes. Mass production of cigarettes in their modern form did not begin until 1913, when the American company RJ Reynolds began producing the famous Camel packs.

Camel – the first modern-looking cigarettes

Advertisement for Camel cigarettes in 1913

When people learned about the dangers of smoking

The fact that smoking cigarettes is harmful to health, some people guessed even at a time when tobacco was considered a medicine. Thus, in 1604, the English monarch James I Stuart declared that tobacco smoking was “disgusting to the eyes, destructive to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.” He compared the emitted smoke to smoke in a bottomless hell.

The harm of tobacco smoking was scientifically proven in 1828, when chemists Wilhelm Possel and Ludwig Reimann isolated nicotine from it. In the course of research, it was found that this chemical compound is addictive, harms the lungs, heart, bones, digestive organs and the whole body as a whole. Once again, we will not list the harmful properties of smoking – you already know everything very well.

After the discovery of nicotine, it became clear that smoking kills

Why do people smoke cigarettes

The main active ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. When it enters the body, it causes a slight euphoria in a person. At the same time, the smoker also has an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and slight trembling of the limbs. After a few days, nicotine no longer gives such a strong effect, but the person is literally held hostage by it and cannot live without a cigarette for a day. This is the main reason that people smoke, knowing full well about the dangers of this bad habit.

Cigarette addiction is very difficult to overcome, but some people succeed

In addition to this, a very powerful advertising campaign was launched in the 20th century to promote smoking. Men already smoked a lot, so women became a new target for marketers. The increase in the popularity of cigarettes among women was strongly influenced by psychologist Edward Bernays, who worked for Lucky Strike. In 1929, he led a feminist cigarette march next to the Statue of Liberty. After that, tobacco became a kind of symbol of women’s independence. An advertisement was also launched that said that tobacco promotes weight loss and improves teeth. But the reality was that people who smoked looked just awful.

Edward Bernays

In the 1930s, smoking was popularized with the help of famous actresses.

Cigarette ads claiming that smoking helps you lose weight

Advertisement for cigarette smoking courses

When will people stop smoking

A Citigroup analyst report says that humanity will begin to completely give up smoking by about 2050. Cigarette smoking is thought to disappear first in the US, parts of Europe, and large parts of Latin America. This will be due to the fact that people will switch to alternative products like electronic cigarettes.

In the future, cigarettes will become fully electronic, but nicotine addiction will not disappear anywhere

If earlier advertising called for smoking, today it is trying to force you to quit smoking.

It turns out that yes, in the future, cigarettes may completely disappear. But addiction to nicotine is not going anywhere – it is possible that people will suffer from it even more, because “vapes” are smoked much more often and for longer. You can read about how electronic cigarettes affect human health in our previous article.

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