It was thought to be a heal-all, but in reality, a harm-all.

The origins of this controversial plant are in the fields of the Americas, and the most common species, Nicotiana Tabacum, originated in Mesoamerica, a region in the central part of the Americas.

Tobacco usage started among the people of the Americas, then europeans through exploration, and eventually the vast majority of human civilization.

It has created cities, empires and multimillionaires. Fortunes won, and lives lost through lies, disease, and exploitation.

Tobacco has grown naturally in the Americas since approximately 6000 BCE, and the Indigenous peoples of this region used tobacco since roughly 1 BCE.

In Indigenous societies, tobacco, likely in other methods of consumption than smoking, was thought to be a vital medicine, curing wounds, toothaches, and all other forms of pain and disease.

Within these societies, tobacco was also used for religious and cultural ceremonies. The native peoples of the Americas were not the only ones to be affected by this plant.

Starting in 1492 with the arrival of Christopher Columbus, europeans were getting acquainted with the miraculous painkiller of the native peoples.

Columbus himself even noted that the native peoples were using a type of leaf which he claimed caused them to behave drunkenly. That was evidently the effects of tobacco as the plant was not yet known to europeans.

In the mid sixteenth century, over 50 years following Columbus’ first encounter with tobacco, the europeans who used it, used it as either a medicine or as a medicinal ingredient as it was believed to cure virtually any major illness, while they had no intent whatsoever of recreational usage.

In 1606, the Virginia Company, a company chartered by King James I of England, set sail for what was later named Virginia. Starting in 1607, the newly formed colony attempted to create a profit.

They attempted glass making, silk making, lumber, and various other industries, but none gained any financial success. In 1612, 3 years after boarding a ship to North America, Englishman John Rolfe brought that would completely transform Virginia, and later America: tobacco.

Rolfe acquired the tobacco seeds in what is thought to be either Trinidad or South America, at a time when the Spanish were the only European nation to have access to the seeds in order to possess a monopoly on the good, and it was punishable by death to sell tobacco seeds to a non-spaniard.

Rolfe planted the seeds in Virginia and his first crop began the creation of the staple of the British American economy. Unfortunately, the colonists could not continue this profit streak alone.

In 1619, the first African slaves arrived in what is the present day United States in Jamestown, Virginia, the oldest European settlement in Virginia, and named after King James I who had funded the Virginia Company.

The slaves were used to work in the fields under harsh conditions to keep up with demand from British sponsors and the British Empire, and the colonies would have likely not been as successful without them.

Gold and silver became scarce in Jamestown, therefore tobacco was used as a supplementary currency for decades, and a man’s wealth was said to be measured in annual pounds of tobacco, and all fines and transactions were completed in, you guessed it, pounds of tobacco.

There was an instance in 1660, when such a large quantity of tobacco was being produced, much of it poor quality, that there was an instance of inflation as tobacco was the local currency, and the colony barely survived.

Due to the heavy dependence on tobacco exportation, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina gained the title, ‘The Tobacco Colonies’. 

Tobacco continued to be smoked in the Americas, and in Europe for centuries undisturbed, but starting in 1826 with the conclusion from scientists that nicotine is a dangerous poison, a number of individuals concluded tobacco and tobacco products were dangerous and poisonous.

In the late 1800’s, the majority of tobacco produced was used for chewing tobacco due to the frontiersmen era of the American West, and cigarettes were made from the leftover scraps from the chewing tobacco production.

At this time, cigars and cigarettes were luxuries and were hand-rolled, but in 1881, American James Bonsack invented the cigarette rolling machine which resulted in the general public gaining access to what was once a luxury.

Cigarettes being available to everyone made cigarettes the number one tobacco product in terms of production, and created a societal

standard for the next number of decades.

The First World War further popularized the cigarette, calling it ‘soldier’s smoke’, and in World War 2, cigarettes were part of society to such a great extent, that they were included as a part of each soldier’s rations.

Starting in the early 20th century, various anti-tobacco campaigns arose, but none got to be serious until the German anti-smoking campaign beginning in the 1930s lasting until the 1940s, Funded by the Nazi Party, German doctors were the first to establish a link between smoking and lung cancer.

The campaign banned smoking in all public transport vehicles, and promoting health education in schools. In the 1950s, Anglo-American researchers, further confirmed the same results the Germans had gotten a decade earlier.

The 1960s was when most of the health hazards of cigarettes and other tobacco products were reported to the public; although denied by the tobacco companies, and when governmental regulations began to take place.

Great Britain banned tobacco advertising on television in 1965, and the U.S. followed in 1971. In the 1980s, smoking was banned in many public places, various lawsuits were filed against the tobacco companies, including a master settlement against the four largest companies to help pay for health care needed caused by the toxins in tobacco products.

Evidence concludes that tobacco companies knew about the harmful effects of their products for decades, but continued to deny them and attempt to falsify the health reports through methods such as claiming doctors smoked their brand of cigarette because it was healthy, and marketing techniques such as candy cigarettes.

What a candy cigarette is, is a candy shaped like a cigarette designed under the same brand name as the actual cigarette, but for children. Thus, when the children grow up, they will be more likely to purchase the same brand of cigarette as they ate as candy as children, although such techniques have now been banned in many countries.

With relatively recent studies, doctors have concluded that smoking can be harmful to every part of the human body, although lung disease is the most common by a long shot.

Tobacco usage, more specifically smoking, is the number one preventable cause of death worldwide, killing 5 million people per year. There are over 4 thousand added chemicals to cigarettes, with at least of 43 of them are known to cause cancer.

Using tobacco can also alter your DNA through a process called methylation. In methylation, genes can be modified to a point where they are unable to control human disease, thus increasing the chances of cancer.

A study was done out of 15000 people, and the average smoker had approximately 2500 changes to their DNA, some of them permanent, thus someone who has quit smoking still has a higher chance of diseases such as cancer, than those who have never smoked at all.

Government and corporate precautions have banned tobacco advertising in movies, on television, in magazines, on billboards, and on the majority of the internet, with Google and Microsoft barring all tobacco products from being advertised on their ad services.

In their place, various government sponsored anti-tobacco ads, warning of health problems caused by tobacco, have appeared. Most first world countries and some U.S. States, have banned tobacco in restaurants, bars, and workplaces.

Keep in mind the correlation between smoking bans and fairly liberal states. Tobacco is also almost universally banned on passenger flights worldwide.

In 2004, Bhutan completely banned tobacco cultivation and usage, although some personal allowances are permitted if the person pays import fees, while in 2016, Turkmenistan enacted a total ban on the product.

The Pitcairn Islands, with a population of 57 imposed  a ban of anyone other than the government store selling tobacco products. All things considered, tobacco has a rich history which formed the world we live in today, although tobacco usage is unconditionally a disgusting habit.