In The Beginning
Tobacco is a plant that grows natively in North and South
America. It is in the same family as the potato, pepper and the poisonous
nightshade, a very deadly plant.
The seed of a tobacco plant is very small. A 1 ounce sample
contains about 300,000 seeds!
It is believed that Tobacco began growing in the Americas
about 6,000 B.C.!
As early as 1 B.C., American Indians began using tobacco
in many different ways, such as in religious and medicinal practices.
Tobacco was believed to be a cure-all, and was used to
dress wounds, as well as a pain killer. Chewing tobacco was believed to
relieve the pain of a toothache!
The New World Discovered
On October 15, 1492, Christopher Columbus was offered
dried tobacco leaves as a gift from the American Indians that he encountered.
Soon after, sailors brought tobacco back to Europe, and
the plant was being grown all over Europe.
The major reason for tobacco's growing popularity in Europe
was its supposed healing properties. Europeans believed that tobacco could
cure almost anything, from bad breath to cancer!
In 1571, A Spanish doctor named Nicolas Monardes wrote
a book about the history of medicinal plants of the new world. In this
he claimed that tobacco could cure 36 health problems.
In 1588, A Virginian named Thomas Harriet promoted smoking
tobacco as a viable way to get one's daily dose of tobacco. Unfortunately,
he died of nose cancer (because it was popular then to breathe the smoke
out through the nose).
During the 1600's, tobacco was so popular that it was
frequently used as money! Tobacco was literally "as good as gold!"
This was also a time when some of the dangerous effects
of smoking tobacco were being realized by some individuals. In 1610 Sir
Francis Bacon noted that trying to quit the bad habit was really hard!
In 1632, 12 years after the Mayflower arrived on Plymouth
Rock, it was illegal to smoke publicly in Massachusetts! This had more
to do with the moral beliefs of the day, than health concerns about smoking
In 1760, Pierre Lorillard establishes a company in New
York City to process tobacco, cigars, and snuff. Today, P. Lorillard is
the oldest tobacco company in the U.S.
Tobacco: A Growth Industry
In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, tobacco
helped finance the revolution by serving as collateral for loans the Americans
borrowed from France!
Over the years, more and more scientists begin to understand
the chemicals in tobacco, as well as the dangerous health effects smoking
In 1826, the pure form of nicotine is finally discovered.
Soon after, scientists conclude that nicotine is a dangerous poison.
In 1836, New Englander Samuel Green stated that tobacco
is an insecticide, a poison, and can kill a man.
In 1847, the famous Phillip Morris is established, selling
hand rolled Turkish cigarettes. Soon after in 1849, J.E. Liggett and Brother
is established in St. Louis, Mo. (The company that has settled out of the
big lawsuits recently).
Cigarettes became popular around this time when soldiers
brought it back to England from the Russian and Turkish soldiers.
Cigarettes in the U.S. were mainly made from scraps left
over after the production of other tobacco products, especially chewing
tobacco. Chewing tobacco became quite popular at this time with the "cowboys"
of the American west.
In 1875, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (better known for
its Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil) was established to produce chewing tobacco.
It wasn't until the 1900's that the cigarette became the
major tobacco product made and sold. Still, in 1901 3.5 billion cigarettes
were sold, while 6 billion cigars were sold.
In 1902, the British Phillip Morris sets up a New York
headquarters to market its cigarettes, including a now famous Marlboro
Along with the popularity of cigarettes, however, was
a small but growing anti-tobacco campaign, with some states proposing a
total ban on tobacco.
The demand for cigarettes grew however, and in 1913 R.J.
Reynolds began to market a cigarette brand called Camel.
War & Cigarettes: A Deadly
The use of cigarette exploded during World War I (1914-1918),
where cigarettes were called the "soldier's smoke".
By 1923, Camel controls 45% of the U.S. market! In 1924,
Phillip Morris begins to market Marlboro as a woman's cigarette that is
a "Mild as May"!
To battle this, American Tobacco Company, maker of the
Lucky Strike brand, begins to market its cigarette to women and gains 38%
of the market. Smoking rates among female teenagers soon triple during
the years between 1925-1935!
In 1939, American Tobacco Company introduces a new brand,
Pall Mall, which allows American to become the largest tobacco company
in the U.S.!
During World War II (1939-1945), cigarette sales are at
an all time high. Cigarettes were included in a soldier's C-Rations (like
food!). Tobacco companies sent millions of cigarettes to the soldiers for
free, and when these soldiers came home, the companies had a steady stream
of loyal customers.
During the 1950's, more and more evidence was surfacing
that smoking was linked to lung cancer. Although the tobacco industry denied
such health hazards, they promoted new products which were "safer", such
as those with lower tar and filtered cigarettes.
In 1952 P. Lorillard markets its Kent brand with the "micronite"
filter, which contained asbestos! This was fortunately discontinued in
In 1953, Dr. Ernst L. Wynders finds that putting cigarette
tar on the backs of mice causes tumors!
In 1954, RJ Reynolds introduces the filtered Winston brand.
In 1956 Reynolds introduces the Salem brand, which is the first filter-tipped
Health Hazards Revealed!
In 1964, the Surgeon General's report on "Smoking and
Health" came out. This report assisted in allowing the government to regulate
the advertisement and sales of cigarettes. The 1960's in general was a
time when much of the health hazards of smoking were reported.
In 1965, television cigarette ads are taken off the air
in Great Britain.
In 1966, those health warnings on cigarette packs begin
In 1968, Bravo, a non-tobacco cigarette brand was marketed.
Made primarily of lettuce, it failed miserably!
Because of the negative press about tobacco, the major
tobacco companies begin to diversify their products. Phillip Morris begins
to buy into the Miller Brewing Company, makers of Miller Beer, Miller Lite,
and Red Dog Beer. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company drops the "Tobacco Company"
in its name, and becomes RJ Reynolds Industries. It also begins to buy
into other products, such as aluminum. American Tobacco Company also drops
"Tobacco" from its name, becoming American Brands, Inc.
In 1971, television ads for cigarettes are finally taken
off the air in the U.S. Cigarettes, however, are still the most heavily
advertised product second to automobiles!
In 1977, the first national Great American Smokeout takes
In 1979, the Surgeon General reports on the Health Consequences
of Smoking for Women. This is in light to the increasing number of women
who are taking up the bad habit. Some attribute it to the slick ad campaign
of the Virginia Slims brand, "You've Come a Long Way Baby!"
The Recent Past
During the 1980's there were many lawsuits filed against
the tobacco industry because of the harmful effects of its products. Smoking
becomes politically incorrect, with more public places forbidding smoking.
In 1982, the Surgeon General reports that second hand
smoke may cause lung cancer. Smoking in public areas are soon restricted,
especially at the workplace.
In 1985, lung cancer became the #1 killer of women, beating
out breast cancer!
Phillip Morris continues to diversify into other products,
buying into General Foods Corporation and Kraft Inc in 1985. R Reynolds,
also diversifies, buying Nabisco (of Oreo fame) and becoming RJR/Nabisco.
In 1987, Congress bands smoking on all domestic flights
lasting less than 2 hours. In 1990, Smoking is banned on all domestic flights,
except to Alaska and Hawaii.
In 1990, Ben & Jerry's (of ice cream fame) boycotts
RJR/Nabisco, and drops Oreos from its ice cream products.
During the 80's and 90's, the tobacco industry starts
marketing heavily in areas outside the U.S., especially developing countries
in Asia. Marlboro is considered the word's No. 1 most valuable brand of
any product with a value over $30 billion! Over this period, there is a
battle between Coca Cola and Marlboro as the No. 1 brand in the world!
In recent, years, there is growing evidence that the tobacco
industry has known all along that cigarettes are harmful, but continued
to market and sell them. There is also evidence that they knew that nicotine
was addictive and exploited this hidden knowledge to get millions of people
hooked on this dangerous habit!
The Truth Is Out There!