The dangers of tobacco use have always been there. Reports as far back as the 1600s have given evidence to its dangers. Consumption of tobacco steadily grew as world travel and trade increased.
In 1602 an anonymous doctor published a work on the illness of chimney sweepers stating it was caused by soot and that “tobacco may have similar effects.” And as quickly as it was written, a defense for tobacco was written in response. Tobacco use spreads throughout Europe and by the 1700s lung cancer is first described.
Tobacco isn’t just smoked, it is ground up and “snuff” is inhaled up the nose. Kings, queens and popes used it for its “medicinal” properties and it becomes an elitist enjoyment. Thirty years after America’s first tobacco factories began producing snuff in 1730, an English physician publishes a clinical study warning about cancer of the nose for snuff users. By the late 1700s the connection between cancer of the lip and snuff is made, and more doctors are reporting cases of nasal cancer.
Nicotine is first isolated in 1828 in pure form it is considered a “dangerous poison,” but wars during the 1800s drive up the use of tobacco. Soldiers are introduced to different types of tobacco and different styles of use, and bring home their habits. U.S. soldiers involved in the Mexican War in the late 1840s are introduced to dark tobacco from Latin countries and “cigarros” and “cigareillos” increase the use of cigars. During the Crimean War in the 1850s British soldiers learn about cigarettes from the Turkish. In the 1860s tobacco rations are given to both the North and South during the Civil War, giving Northerners their first taste of mild southern tobacco and helping to spread the chewing tobacco habit.
Tobacco companies start up and flourish during the 1800s. But by the mid 1800s physicians start seeing more effects of smoking on health and document it in their journals. Still considered a rare disease, lung cancer has 140 cases worldwide by the late 1880s. But production of the commercially rolled cigarette is just beginning and with it comes a rising tide of disease in the coming century.
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