Smoke and Ashes: A History of the War on Smoking

Tobacco as we know it appeared about six thousand years ago. It took our ancestors three thousand years to figure out how to use it. Another two and a half thousand – to understand why it’s better not to touch tobacco. And it took five hundred to figure out how to stop smoking. It’s a fascinating centuries-long war that isn’t over yet. In this article, a writer from the cheap essay writing service will tell us how the battle was fought.

1000 B.C.

The first blow came, of course, from tobacco. It grew and got close to the homes of the Indians, who figured out how to use it. Tobacco was smoked and chewed. They were especially fond of it during religious festivals and procedures, invoking spirits and communicating with the gods. Tobacco was already doing vile work because the Indians had developed a strong addiction. So strong that the tradition of blowing smoke safely survived the millennia and waited for the arrival of Columbus.


First attempts at resistance. If legends and rumors are to be believed, Columbus did not intend to bring tobacco, a time bomb, to Europe at all. The bundle of leaves he threw away. And who knows what history might have been if the sailors had followed his example. But the second expedition ended with Columbus’s ship docking in a Portuguese port on March 15, 1496, with tobacco on board.


People learned that tobacco was unhealthy: it attracted the attention of the Inquisition. Smoke inhalation was considered an association with the devil. And one of the sailors who sailed across the ocean with Columbus, Rodrigo de Jerez, was sentenced to seven years in prison for smoking.


This is the year that tobacco pretended to be a passé. Ambassador Jean Nico, who was not even a physician, sent it to Queen Catherine de Medici and recommended it be taken for migraines. The queen did not smoke but sniffed tobacco, but since then, it has been officially considered a cure for many ailments. In 1587 a book called De herbe panacea was published. The panacea was, of course, tobacco. It began to be spread by physicians, who noticed that the plant acted as a psychostimulant. They could not notice the other effects at the time.


The first attempt to combat smoking at the level of heads of state. The English monarch James I Stuart made his mark as the author of A Counterblast to Tobacco.

Though no medical research was available at the time, the king correctly described the main complaints about smoking: “The habit is repugnant to the eyes, destructive to the brain, hateful to the nose, dangerous to the lungs, and the stinking black smoke that accompanies it is almost like smoke in a bottomless hell.”


A tobacco factory was built in Seville. After that, the spread of smoking was unstoppable: those who could buy cigars, those who could not pick up cigarette butts, crushed them and wrapped the powder in the paper. Tobacco showed the kings that they could make money on it.

On the one hand, it led to restrictions on production: in England and Spain, monopolies were imposed on plantations. But on the other hand, this round was left to tobacco because, so far, states are not ready to give up the money that the production and sale of products made from the plant brings.

Even the ex-communication that Pope Urban VIII promised smokers could do nothing to help.


Another great fire takes place in Moscow. The cause was thought to be smoking. Eventually, Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, the first of the Romanov dynasty, banned smoking. According to the traditions of that time, tobacco was severely punished: they tore nostrils. Fifteen years later, the decree was enshrined in the Sobor Code:

“The members of the Streltsy Guards and commoners and all kinds of people carrying tobacco will be brought in twice or thrice, and such people will be tortured and beaten with a whip on a goat or by trade, and for many such people, their nostrils and noses will be cut off, and after such torture and punishment they will be exiled to remote towns, where the Tsar will direct so that it is not done by others as a punishment.”


Doctors finally realized that tobacco was not a cure. Dr. John Hill published a study on the evils of tobacco: Cautions Against the Immoderate Use of Snuff. Mr. Hill saw a direct link between nasal cancer and tobacco.

His English colleague was supported by Samuel Thomas von Sommering. He, too, proved in 1795 that tobacco leads to cancer. This time, to lip cancer, which develops in patients who smoke a pipe. Tobacco’s reputation was damaged, but few smokers read these books: not everyone could read at all back then.


Nothing much happened in this year except that the seventeenth century ended. And at that time, tobacco made its way everywhere it could, spreading all over the world.


This was the year the masks were torn off. Chemists Ludwig Reimann and Wilhelm Posselt isolated nicotine from tobacco. Remember the French ambassador who treated queens for migraines? The substance was named after him.

It was a blow to tobacco because chemists and medics quickly established the harmful properties of nicotine. Since then, the plant may have wiggled around and invented new tricks, but no matter how you look at it, it has nicotine in it. That is an alkaloid, a drug, and a poison.


Cigarettes began to be produced, not just cigars and tobacco. Twenty years later, Albert Hook and James Bonsack invented machines in the U.S. that could replace dozens of people in the manufacture of cigarettes. Tobacco became so cheap that everyone could afford it. The fight against smoking gave up because there was nothing to oppose penny cigarettes but bans.


The first public service announcement was supposed to scare smokers.

“A boy who smokes may not worry about his future – he has no future.

This slogan, which is not so much a slogan as the truth of life, is attributed to Davis Jordan, a biologist from the United States.


World War I ended. The tragic consequences were many. Among them was rampant smoking. Soldiers could not spend a day without tobacco to take their minds off the war. The women who replaced the men in the factories picked up the habits of the workers, who wouldn’t part with their cigarettes. In the end, everyone everywhere smoked: rich countries and poor African colonies, men and women, old people and children.


The British Doctors Study began with more than 30,000 participants. Not five years later, the first results came in: yes, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The study was a scientific breakthrough. They had to seriously consider what was more profitable: selling tobacco and treating people or maintaining a healthy lifestyle and not spending money on medicine.


They put health warnings on cigarette packages.

Smoking kills!


Once again, tobacco is looking for a workaround. This time there are light cigarettes. Everyone already knows that smoking is harmful, that it is deadly, but “light” cigarettes create the illusion of safety, at least partially. And although it has been proven more than once to the contrary, the myth of their lesser harm is still alive and well. Unlike smokers.


Humanity has finally realized that smoking can’t be defeated by prohibition alone. Scientists and pharmacists took a different route, one that helps fight addiction. They didn’t make laws or fines against tobacco but a different plant – the buckeye. They extracted from it the substance citizen, which helps to quit smoking, and turned it into the drug “Tabex.”


The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a framework convention on tobacco control. Many countries joined the convention. This was followed by restrictions for smokers: bans on smoking in public places, creepy pictures on cigarette packages, time limits on sales, and much more.

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