Sunday, May 12, 2013


by Jacquie Rogers

Author Jacquie Rogers

Tobacco is a plant native to Central and South America, migrating north with traders, eventually making its way to eastern Canada. Until Christopher Columbus and his crew introduced tobacco to Europe, the rest of the world was relatively nicotine-free. Nicotine (probably from belladonna or nicotiana africana) had ceremonial uses in Arabia and northern Africa, but wasn't a commonly consumed substance.
Leap ahead to 1492.

Christopher Columbus had no idea what the dried leaves were that the Arawaks gave him as one of the prized gifts, so he threw it overboard. A while later, crew members Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres described the method used for wrapping dried tobacco leaves, lighting the end, and sucking air through the roll. Jerez enjoyed smoking and is documented as Europe's first smoker.

Problem was, when he got home and the Spaniards saw him blow smoke from his mouth, they threw him in the slammer for seven years. When he finally gained his freedom, tobacco use was accepted and ubiquitous.
de Medici

For the next hundred years, the most popular forms of tobacco use were chew and snuff, although some did smoke cigars. Its use was considered medicinal and when Jean Nicot de Villemain sent snuff to Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, to treat her migraine headaches, she decreed tobacco Herba Regina. Withing the next twenty years, tobacco was thought to cure everything from worms to cancer.

So is everyone smoking? Not quite. Chew and snuff still held most of the tobacco market share, with cigars holding their own at #3. Ah, but you knew someone would be using the pipe soon. England had sent a few people to Virginia Colony they returned smoking pipes, which everyone thought was cool. Pipes caught on quicker than hula-hoops.

In the late 1500s, Spain monopolized the tobacco market and it upset the balance of trade in Europe. Britain needed a variety of natural resources and, well, a little gold wouldn't hurt, either. Solution: the New World. They sent ships to what is now Virginia (and to New England, too) and Jamestown was born. Problem was, the colony was more expensive to support, not to mention the 80% fatality rate, than England got back. Just when the surviving colonists had boarded ship for home, John Rolfe showed up with some teensy little seeds in his pocket.

John Rolfe and 
Within a decade, tobacco plantations were all over the place, worked mostly by indentured servants and African slaves. John Rolfe died in 1622 but the industry he established lived on, and even today the tobacco industry is important to the economy in the region. Tobacco subsidized the Revolutionary War, used as collateral for the loan from France.

When Charles II took the throne in 1660, he brought his snuff habit with him. Snuff was the drug of choice of the French aristocracy and soon spread through the English aristocracy as well, and this trend held through the next century and more. Charlotte, King George III's wife, was especially fond of it and Napolean used 7 pounds of snuff a month. Achoo!

Back to the American colonies: Pierre Lorillard's processing plant in New York City packaged snuff, pipe tobacco, and rolled cigars. P. Lorillard is still in business. From Lorillard, About Us:
Lorillard, Inc., through its Lorillard Tobacco Company subsidiary, is the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States. Founded in 1760, Lorillard is the oldest continuously operating tobacco company in the United States.
Bull Durham 
loose tobacco
During the 1700s, several surgeons reported health risks. John Hill said snuff could cause cancer of the nose, Benjamin Rush said that smoking or chewing tobacco leads to drunkenness. Not many paid heed to these warnings. From
1762: General Israel Putnam introduces cigar-smoking to the US. After a British campaign in Cuba, "Old Put" returns with three donkey-loads of Havana cigars; introduces the customers of his Connecticut brewery and tavern to cigar smoking.
In the 1800s, cigar use prevailed. When cigars weren't available, the roll-your-own cigarettes had to make do. When you think of the Old West, you think of Stetson hats, Arbuckles Coffee, and Bull Durham tobacco [Delbert Trew]. But when the cowhands got to town, they still wanted a fine cigar. Chewing was still popular, too, and in 1890 US residents chewed three pounds of tobacco per capita a year.

Pall Mall ad, 1926
It should be mentioned that the Women's Temperance Movement had tobacco on their hit list because it dried the mouth and made men crave alcohol.

For the sake a brevity, we'll skip ahead. Cigarettes had never been the most popular form of tobacco use. But in World War I, the soldiers received cigarette rations, and when they came home, a huge percentage were addicted. Bull Durham advertises, "When our boys light up, the Huns will light out." []

Joan Crawford
Cigarette smoking became prevalent, and, in the Roaring Twenties, even women started smoking. The flappers delighted in long-stemmed cigarette holders, considered quite chic. "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel" successfully advertised Camel cigarettes, a slogan used for decades. To compete, Marlboro was introduced as a woman's cigarette, "Mild as May." Lucky Strikes targetted women, also, using female stars of the day as spokeswomen. Many other brands that still exist today were introduced in the 1920s.

By 1939, 66% of the men under age 40 smoked. In World War II, the troops were again provided with cigarettes in their rations. Everyone puffed happily away, but the health risks were piling up. Many of the most popular television shows were sponsored by tobacco companies. Magazine ads showed doctors testifying that the advertised brand was the healthiest. In 1954, the Marlboro Cowboy was introduced. Marlboro cigarettes had a .25% market share at the time, probably one of the most successful ad campaigns ever.

Marlboro Man
But in the 1950s, the lawsuits from those adversely affected by tobacco started rolling in. Scientific evidence against smoking piled up. In the 1960s, reports of cigarettes causing lung cancer came from everywhere, including the US Surgeon General. Still, tobacco companies denied the risks and battled in the courts to deny culpability in tobacco user's ills. In 1969, cigarette ads were banned from the airwaves.

Just when you think cigarette-smoking might abate, Virginia Slims comes out for women, advertising, "You've come a long way, baby." At the same time, health warnings had to be printed prominently on cigarette packages. And Joe Camel swept on the scene. At one time, Joe Camel was the second-most recognized animated character by schoolchildren, right behind #1, Mickey Mouse.

Currently, smoking is prohibited in public buildings in nearly all states, and where I live, smoking is very politically-incorrect, even in private. The cost is steep, both in cigarette prices and in health risks. John Rolfe made it possible to finance the Revolutionary War, but it sure would have been healthier for all of us if he could've done it with maize instead of tobacco.

Sources American Tobacco Healthliteracy Lorillard, Inc. North Carolina State University

Hearts of Owyhee Men in Chaps and Women Who Lasso Them!

Much Ado About Marshals
Much Ado About Madams
Much Ado About Mavericks
Find Jacquie Rogers at For a real treat, read her bio and you'll see why her books are so popular. Other places to find Jacquie are:
She's also on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Welcome, Jacquie--
    If only we authors could brand ourselves as well as cigarette makers did--we'd be rich from the sale of our books. Even though I never smoked, I loved those ads..especially the Marlboro Man.
    In my adult stage, I admired the woman who said, with a cigarette in her hand, "We've come a long way, Baby."
    We often watch old black and white movies on TCM and AMC, and we're astounded by the amount of smoking that goes on. We all took it for granted.
    I had many smokers on one side of my family, and practically none on the other. Strange, isn't it? I didn't grow up around smokers at all.
    I had a brother-in-law who smoked as a young man and father, but quit because he wanted to buy a fishing boat--but he didn't have the money. Each week, he put aside the amount of money he would have spent on cigarettes, and in some short period of time--I don't remember exactly--he had enough to get that boat. He wasn't proud of himself as others were--he just wanted that boat more than the cigarettes.
    Congratulations on getting your books re-issued, and those covers are great.

  2. Thanks, Celia! I love the SOTW blog and read it often, even though I'm bad at leaving comments. (I read your blog, too.)

    You're sure right about the brand identification. Tobacco companies have always been the best at it.

    And same here with the families! Nearly everyone on my mom's side smoked and hardly anyone on my dad's side smoked. When I was little, my dad smoked and my mom didn't, so they both went against type. LOL. He quit when I was in first grade.

    Thanks for the compliment on the new covers. I really like them and they've also done the cover for Much Ado About Miners--I just have to get the book written.

  3. Jacquie, fascinating blog on tobacco and lighting up. Have to say I did always enjoy the Marlboro Man commercials. Of course, his sad end sure didn't sit well.

    I've never smoked, and now I have a severe allergy to secondhand smoke. I do have to say from the limited research I've done about what is actually put in cigarettes these days, I'd be more frightened about all those chemicals, rather than the actual straight tobacco.

    I understand tobacco is used as a natural pesticide, and birds put the butts in their nests to keep the pests away.

    Your cover art is westerny fabulous! Congrats.

  4. Jacquie, I loved your post, although I hate tobacco products of all types. My dad died from emphysema from smoking all his life. In a weird twist, though, I collect tobacco memorabilia. My favorite is a 1920's metal daylily whose leaves are individual ashtrays. My brother still smokes, and I hate that. He is very defensive about his habit and insists that no one can tell he smokes. Ha, you can smell him from ten feet away.

  5. Savanna, there have been several Marlboro Men, and all of them are drool-worthy.

    As many problems that tobacco has, it does blow me away that it was originally considered a cure-all. I hope the baby birds don't eat any of those butts!

  6. Caroline, I've always been fascinated by cigarette holders, the kind they used in the Roaring 20s. My step-grandmother used to smoke with one of those. It was 6" long and had filters in it that she changed. It always amazed me how cruddy those filters were. Yuck.

  7. Great post. I was watching a youtube vid on Cheyenne Indians and one of the comments he made was that the Indians would rather trade or buy tobacco from the whites than smoke their own because the white man had been able to cure it better thus producing a better product.

  8. Jacquie, if you ever read Edgar Cayce's health cures, you'll find references to tobacco as a cure for some health conditions. From what little investigation I've done, yeah, tobacco does have medicinal properties. That doesn't negate the overuse and wrong use of it, like any medicine can be abused. *And being severely allergic to secondhand smoke, I'm not a fan.* However, I like to be fair. Plus, I doubt God, the Great Spirit, whatever you call the Divine, would have tobacco as part of the plant kingdom unless there was a GOOD medicinal use for it. JUST MY OPINION, THOUGH!

    I doubt the baby birds would eat any of the butts since they only take food from their parents.

  9. Ciara, so that's why tobacco was such a popular trading item. I didn't know that. The Indians in Idaho mostly smoked kinnikinnick. I'm not sure what plant that is, but I do know the Shoshoni had another name for it.

  10. Savanna, I'm with you there. Lots of plants are both medicinal and poisonous/hallucinogenic. It makes sense that tobacco would also have its uses, even though it's been abused for 500 years.

  11. More history: When English ships arrived in Jamestown to pick up tobacco to ship back to Europe, they threw their ballast overboard to make room for the leaves (the ballast was used to fill the holds and give the empty ship stability.) What did they use for ballast? Dirt and rocks from England. Which contained earthworms. The English settlers thus introduced the earthworm to the North American forests, changing their ecology within a few generations... before that, fallen leaves decomposed much more slowly, leaving the soil much more moist than it is now and making the forests less open.

  12. Jacquie,
    This is a great post, as always! Very interesting. My grandmother dipped snuff, and my granddad did too. I always hated to hug her because she smelled of it. Loved this post!

  13. Troy, you always amaze me--you'd think I'd get used to it after a while. But earthworms??? Who knew? :) Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Cheryl, I remember some of the elders dipping snuff, too. It always struck me as being ridiculous and I couldn't figure out why they'd do that. My great-grandpa chewed and that was downright nasty. He carried a coffee mug around with him to spit in. :shudder:

  15. Thanks to Jacquie, and everyone who has commented about the history of tobacco.

    Yep, a lot of substance abuse going on throughout recorded human history. And lots of human abuse, too. I wish it would end.


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