Return to:  Tobacco Lesson 01

History of Tobacco
Boston University MedicalCenter 
Community Outreach Health Information System 

bullet In The Beginning
bullet The New World Discovered (1400-1700)
bullet Tobacco: A Growth Industry(1700-1900)
bullet War & Cigarettes: A Deadly Combo(1900-1960)
bullet Health Hazards Revealed!(1960-1980)
bullet The Recent Past(1980-present)

Want Updates to
Race and Racism in
American Law
Enter your e-mail address:
An e-group hosted by FindMail's
Please Sign 
My Guestbook!
Recent  Entries.
Past Entries.

The University of Dayton School of Law

Always Under Construction!

Always Under Construction!

Send questions and comments to: 
Vernellia R. Randall
Last Updated:

You are visitor number 
since  August 31, 1999.
 Copyright @ 1999. Vernellia R. Randall
All Rights Reserved.


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 tobacco.

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 produces.

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 brand.

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 Combo

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 1956.

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 menthol cigarette.


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 popping up.

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 place.

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!