The history of cigarettes
Nobody knows exactly when human beings first started to use the tobacco plant, but it’s believed that it was around 6000 B.C. The first evidence of tobacco use is stone carvings made by the Maya Indians that is dated somewhere between 600 to 900 A.D. For sure tobacco also was grown by Indians before the Europeans came to America from England, Spain, France and Italy.
The native Americans smoked tobacco through a kind of pipe for medical and religious reasons. People believed that tobacco could cure almost everything and used it to dress wounds, as a pain killer and chewed it to relive pain of toothache.
On October 15, 1492, Christopher Columbus as maybe the first European was offered dried tobacco from American Indians that he encountered. The reason to grow tobacco in Europe was also from the beginning healing properties. The Spanish doctor Nicolas Monardes wrote a book about the history of medical plants of the new world in 1571. In that he claimed that tobacco could cure 36 health problems.
Until the 1800’s it was rare to smoke or chew tobacco every day, but by then more and more people started to have it as a habit. The tobacco was chewed, smoked in pipes or hand rolled cigars.
It is pretty hard to say when the first cigarette came because it was hard to distinguish cigarettes from cigars. The first cigarettes were small kinds of cigars and like them they where hand rolled with different kind of leaves as “paper”. Around 1830 the cigarettes had made its way into France and got the name, cigarette. 1845 the French state tobacco monopoly started to manufacture them.
Among British soldiers tobacco in form of cigarettes became popular during the Crimean war, where they learned smoking tobacco rolled in old newspapers from their Ottoman Turkish comrades and the enemy soldiers from Russia. After the war the cigarette smoking style spread to also other parts of the English speaking world. It seems that the first way of smoking cigarettes was similar to smoking pipes and cigars. Most smokers did not inhale the smoke.
The cigarette as we know it became widespread when James Bonsack invented the cigarette-making machine in 1881. His machine was able to produce 120 000 cigarettes per day. He soon after the invention went into business with his son James “Buck” Duke with whom he built a cigarette factory and the production grew fast.
They made 10 billion cigarettes the first year and around one billion cigarettes after five years. The first brand was packed in a box with baseball cards and was called Duke of Durham. The two of them started then the first tobacco company in The States, called American Tobacco Company. They were the largest tobacco company until the early 1900’s.
From 1900 to 1910 the Turkish tobacco dominated the market. At that time there where around 200 different cigarette brands witch had only regional popularity. There where no sole American brand and the Turkish tobacco, wich was made of light tobacco to wich slight Turkish brand was added for aroma and flavor, was quite expensive.
In 1902 Philip Morris Company brought the Marlboro brand to the cigarette market. All the early tobacco companies were mainly selling cigarettes to men, but that changed during the World War I and World War II. The soldiers was given free cigarettes and the women got more independence when they started to work to fill up space from the men who were away. The independence for many women included start smoking cigarettes.
The first ones to find a link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer was German doctors. That lead to the first anti-smoking movement in Nazi Germany. During the second half of the 20th century the bad health effects of tobacco smoking began to become widely known and 1975 the U.S government quit putting cigarettes in military rations.
The widespread of smoking cigarettes increased a lot during the 20th century. In the beginning of the century the per capita annual consumption in the USA was 54 cigarettes, and less than 0.5% of the population was smoking more than 100 cigarettes per year. The consumption peaked in 1965 when 4,259 cigarettes per capita where smoked. Back then 50 % of the men and 33% of the women smoked. That can be compared to 2.092 per capita and 30% of the men and 22% of the women smoking in year 2000, and it’s still falling.
In 1922 the Tobacco Tax Law fixed the weight of the tobacco at 1361 mg per cigarette witch determined the modern cigarette size. At this time the most popular brands was Camel, Lucky Strike and Chesterfield. But in the 1930s and 1940s brands like Old Gold, Raleigh and Philip Morris was gaining popularity.
The first cigarette with filter was manufactured by R. J Reynolds in 1954 under the brand name Winston. In 1956 the first filtered cigarette with menthol taste saw the day light. Its name was Salem.
1965 the U.S Congress passed the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. Amongst other things it said that every pack of cigarettes must have a warning label on its side stating “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.” It was only the first step. In 1968 many companies tried to sell cigarettes witch not contained tobacco. These cigarettes primarily contained lettuce leaves and was called Brave, but it was never any hit.
That was expanded in 1984 when the Congress passed the law called Comprehensive Smoking Education Act. That law said that the tobacco companies had to change the warning labels on their cigarette packs and four different labels was made that rotated in the cigarette packs.
Since the 1980’s there have been a lot of actions by federal, the states in different countries and private companies to take actions to restrict smoking cigarettes in public places. In US it’s forbidden to advertise cigarettes on television and radio. In a lot of countries and states in US around the world it is not allowed to smoke in restaurants and public buildings. Since 1990 airlines have not allowed smoking in flights less than six hours long.
The early 1980’s is also known as the years of the Tar war. All large tobacco companys started to manufacture new brands of cigarettes with lower amounts of tar and nicotine and improved filters as a way of to keep their consumers buying despite fears of the health effects. The tobacco companies competed by putting over 100 different low tar and “ultra” low tar cigarettes on the market.
In the same decade the first lawsuits was filed against the tobacco industry because of the harmful effects of its products. All the problems in their home country make the tobacco companies start to market their brands outside of US, especially in development countries in Asia. Marlboro is considered the world’s most valuable brand of any product in the 80’s and 90’s closely followed by Coca Cola.
(To be continued soon…)