Tobacco: from plantation to cigarette

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Tobacco takes root in America, but when the new continent was discovered, the Europeans exploited this plant to spread it all over the world. Focus on the history of tobacco and its great popularity.

America: a fertile continent for tobacco

Tobacco grows in abundance on the continent across the Atlantic, which has no less than sixty different species. It was used by the Mayas from the 5th century, then by the natives.

In the north of the continent, tobacco is smoked in clay pipes, marble or crab claws. In the south, it is instead rolled in corn or palm leaves. Tobacco is deeply rooted in religious rites among North and South Indians, but it is also used as an insecticide, fertilizer and currency.

The discovery of tobacco by Christopher Columbus

Landing in the Bahamas, then in Cuba, the colonists of the crew of Christopher Columbus discovered the tobacco leaves. Returning to Europe, the navigator promotes tobacco as a medicinal plant. In France, tobacco took on various names before being baptized Queen’s herb after Catherine de Medici succeeded in treating her son François II’s migraines with tobacco.

It was not until the end of the 16th century that the word tobacco appeared for the first time, designating this “medicinal plant”.

The tobacco controversy

While it extends throughout the world creating a rather lucrative business, in France, Richelieu introduces a tax on the sale of tobacco. Pope Urban VIII forbids it purely and simply while Colbert encourages its consumption in particular because he markets his own production. He will also set up a Privilege of manufacture and sale in 1674. In 1719 the cultivation of tobacco is prohibited in France under penalty of death, because it is only reserved for the West India Company. .

The cigarette as it is still smoked today appeared in the 1700s, but soon the harmful effects were identified. However, tobacco consumption in France increased tenfold between 1926 and 1991.

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