Today in History: Tobacco first introduced to Europe

in #history2 years ago

While it is undeniable that tobacco would have eventually made its way into the homes and lives of Europeans, it wasn't a crop that existed at all until introduced from the untapped land that we now know as the Americas - where tobacco use was commonplace for an estimated several thousand years.

It all had to begin somewhere though, and as soon as it was introduced to Europe its use spread like wildfire for medicinal and social reasons. The product was so popular that governments scrambled to tax it and today it may very likely be the most highly-taxed product in the world.

The Year was 1492


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The journal of Christopher Columbus describes a particular crop that he (and the rest of Europe) was unfamiliar with, and it was tobacco. Since the plant didn't prove useful for eating and had a rather foul smell to it, they waited until the native inhabitants who gave it to them were out of sight and immediately threw it overboard (could have at least re-gifted it.) It wasn't until a second journey where they encountered modern-day Cuba, that he and the crew witnessed people smoking the plant.

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Please note: There is some argument out there as to whether the crew and Columbus himself witnessed people smoking the plant on the 1st or 2nd journey as it was not properly recorded. I suppose in the end it doesn't really matter because that is not the point. The point is this: On this day in 1492 the first ever written reference to tobacco (in Europe) was in Columbus' journal.

The first person on record to introduce the smoking of tobacco to Europe was a member of Columbus' crew named Rodrigo de Jerez, who shared his newly found habit with his friends in Ayamonte, Spain. He was promptly arrested by the Spanish Inquisition because "only the devil could give man the power to exhale smoke from his mouth."


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By the time he was released 7 years later, smoking was already immensely popular all over Europe. One would think that once the smoking practice had become socially acceptable that this man would have been immediately released and given at least a "Sorry, our bad!" but nah. In 500 years our judicial system remains relatively unchanged as a lot of people are still languishing away in prison for non-violent marijuana violations.

By the mid 16th century, tobacco farming and exporting to Europe was a massive operation and was deemed one of the most profitable crops that one could grow. The Portuguese established massive plantations in Brazil and this trend would eventually become one of the largest crops cultivated by the United States - some would argue it was so profitable that it gave the colonies the financial power to ever consider breaking away from England.

The plant could also be chewed to relieve toothaches and it was effective in the temporary relief of a lot of ailments and at times was touted as a cure. However, we now understand that this is just temporary narcotic pain-relief and the reason why it appeared to "cure" a particular ailment was just the naturally-occurring healing in the body. But just like the old saying goes "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Throughout history there have been many bans on tobacco but the sheer profits available on the crop resulted in any government deciding instead of banning it, they could make huge profits by taxing it. This system of course still exists to this day where the cost of producing a packet of cigarettes is less than 30 US cents, yet purchasing this pack of cigarettes costs $5 to $30 and nearly all of this goes to taxes.

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On a personal note I wish that I have never been peer-pressured into starting smoking. I remember the first couple of Marlboro that I had in the parking lot at school and how awful it made me feel. It is truly amazing that I ever had a second one given the almost violent reaction I had to the first. We all do dumb things and it is only recently, around 20 years later that I finally gave the habit up after realizing it was taking a massive toll on my ability to do physical activity.

However, I also don't think it should be banned. I think most sensible people will eventually realize that this habit is incredibly dangerous and will give it up on their own at some point. When I was in high school and college, virtually everyone I knew was a smoker - Now almost none of those same people still do so.

If it hadn't been Columbus it would have been someone else. However, he is the first person from Europe to ever record the "discovery" of the plant. Unlike the "discovery" of modern-day USA, this is something that is correctly attributed to him.

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so glad to have given it up years ago! when I finally stopped telling myself "just one more pack" 😆

yeah or "i'll just have a few, or I only smoke when drinking" so many excuses and none of them ever work.

Or, "I only smoke after watching 16 hours of Brazilian fart porn." I'm sure that one has caused the downfall of many.

LOL

As a smoker don't know how to react this post

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Great story..I feel bad for that poor guy who went to jail for his demonic smoke blowing skills. Especially while everyone started smoking in the meantime. Oops!

I also had a bad reaction to cigarettes. The first time I took a hit was at a friend's house when I was a teen. I took like 2 puffs, then broke out in a cold sweat and got very dizzy.

I laid down on his bed for like an hour waiting to feel better. Lucky for me, I never wanted to do it again after that. I am sure that if I had forced myself, I could have gotten used to it.

At the risk of sounding like an idiot... I had no idea that tobacco was ever used medicinally. LOL Learn something new everyday I guess!

It is truly amazing that I ever had a second one given the almost violent reaction I had to the first. We all do dumb things

Yes, especially at that age lol! I know I did plenty! haha! and I became a 20 a day smoker, but stopped about four years ago... although I do still vape so I guess that doesn't count really haha!

well it doesn't make you sound like an idiot at all. Before i starting researching this article I had no idea either.

Vaping is fine i think, especially if it is used as a transitional thing. When this country made vaping illegal it was kind of difficult to not be cynical about it... they were worried about tax revenue from cigarettes and also protecting the industry that the government's pals are involved in :(

Ok, I feel better now ;)

Oh and yes, I definitely share your sentiment regarding the greedy government!

Nice history

Smoking shouldn't be banned. But smoking in buildings open to the public like in restaurants should be banned. In Finland, smoking in restaurants, bars and pubs was banned in 2007. As a non-smoker, I felt it was a great thing. Our go club used to meet a very nice pub every Sunday. Before the ban, my clothes would stink for days unless they were washed right away. The passive smoking wasn't too good, either.

I remember having to learn all about this when i was working for Rothmans and Marlboro. The taxation is crazy and where the companies really make the money each year. They need to forecast exactly what the wholesalers require before the price increase and pay the old duty up front. The wholesalers make an absolute fortune as they stock up on millions of Dollars worth of cigarettes and make an instant profit as the duty increase with the government budget comes into effect.

Amazingly we have a short history section in our newspaper here in South Africa that I read every day and yesterday there was a short inscription that stated; "1492, Christopher Columbo, the first recorded words about tobacco"

That was it until your post now drew my attention. Well laid out and well explained and thank you for this!
Btw. I am still struggling to stop and well done that you have!
Blessings!

Congratulations @gooddream!
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This was a really nice write up. I have been to a couple of the old farms in Kentucky and it is always cool to see the big black barns that they use to dry out the leaves and things like that. It is pretty crazy how the times change and how a lot of the time you have to go out of your way to find a person that smokes now. Even five years ago that wasn't the case. I think it is great just for the over-all health of the country. It is nice being able to go in a bar and not come out smelling like an ash tray now!

i know man. Things have changed so much in our lifetimes. When i was in high school and college cigarettes were super cheap and smoking was acceptable just about anywhere. I remember people smoking in grocery stores and giant floor ashtrays just being everywhere

I was a smoker in college and briefly quit while i was still there and never knew how bad smokers smell until i wasn't one of them anymore. Of course I ended up starting again as a lot of smokers tend to. I think we kind of become more sensible as we get closer to 40 and the consequences of our habits start to become more evident to us.

I am pretty lucky that I never picked up the habit. I guess I have my parents to thank for that. I get a little sad when I see my friends that have kids and stuff still smoking. I want better for them and their families.

 2 years ago Reveal Comment