SUNDAY JULY 23, 2017
 
Blog HEALTH
HISTORY OF SMOKING: FROM CHEWING TOBACCO TO E-CIGARETTES
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Today, premium vape juice is replacing tobacco, but smoking’s place in society isn’t going anywhere.

EARLIEST SMOKING TRADITIONS

Anthropologists aren’t exactly sure how humans discovered tobacco, but they do know it was used thousands of years ago primarily as a part of rituals and ceremonies. Researchers have determined that tobacco was first cultivated in the Andes around 3,000 and 5,000 B.C. However, people were probably smoking tobacco long before they started growing it on their own.

Tobacco was one of the many plants used by the native people of the Americas. Herbalists gathered all sorts of wild plants to heal people or aid in rituals, which is most likely how humans stumbled upon wild tobacco. 

There’s evidence Native Americans chewed, sniffed and smoked tobacco using pipes.

THE INFLUENCE OF THE AMERICAS

The United States may be a relatively young country by the world’s standards, but it’s had a huge impact on smoking. In the early years of colonization, settlers quickly realized the Americas were perfect for growing tobacco. Experts believe tobacco grew wild in the Americas 8,000 years ago. Soon after trade began to boom and smoking tobacco became more commonplace.

Believe it or not, most Europeans weren’t exposed to smoking until after colonization in the mid 1500s. Diplomats who visited the colonies cultivated a taste for smoking tobacco and brought their new hobby back home with them. Pretty soon America was shipping thousands of pounds of tobacco across the Atlantic. From there smoking tobacco spread further east. Within seven years of the first commercial crop, tobacco was America’s number one export.

Without the colonization of America it’s hard to say how influential smoking would be in countries far from tobacco’s source of origin.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION OF SMOKING

Once tobacco began making its way around the world different cultures put their own twist on smoking. People created their own smoking apparatus and began playing around with tobacco mixtures.

Take the history of the hookah for example. Sure, the decorative smoking device that originated in the Middle East was originally used for opium, but it quickly became a popular way to consume tobacco with friends. The use of a hookah is designed to be a social experience. So much so, hookah bars were developed to give people a place to try new tobaccos in a public setting.

Up to this point smoking was still done through some sort of pipe. It wasn’t until the 1800s that cigars came on the scene. In South America and the Caribbean rolling cigars with premium tobacco became an art form. Cigars also became a symbolism for success and a rite of passage in certain social circles. Still today, many businessmen have discussions over a drink and a cigar. 

LARGE SCALE CONSUMPTION OF CIGARETTES 

Hand-rolled cigarettes were around long before they become a packaged commodity and poster child for cancer awareness. Though there’s evidence of cigarettes dating back to the 1600s, they didn’t become popular until the Civil War. In the 1880s after the first cigarette-making machine was introduced smoking really took off.

Cigarettes were a quick and easy way to light up, which is why they appealed to Civil War soldiers. Starting in about 1905, cigarette smoking steadily increased. Maybe it was the stress of WWI and WWII, but both periods saw a dramatic increase in the per capita consumption of cigarettes. Use kept increasing until it reached a high point in 1961. At that time cigarette sales were measured at 11 cigarettes a day per adult.

Not only were companies mass-producing cigarettes, they were creating a lifestyle around their brands. One of the most recent revolutions of the cigarette industry was targeting female customers with brands that were decidedly feminine. Virginia Slims was one of those brands that encouraged more young women to have a smoke.

Despite numerous studies that warned of the connection between cancer and cigarette smoking, the activity didn’t begin to decline in the U.S. until the mid-1960s.

E-CIGARETTES AND VAPING 

In our digital era it’s no surprise that smoking has gone electronic. After the cancer connections were revealed, smoking became less accepted by the general public. The answer wasn’t to entirely kick the habit of smoking but to reinvent it.

Enter e-cigarettes. Instead of lighting up tar-filled tobacco wrapped in a chemical laced paper an electronic “cigarette” vaporizes a liquid to create smoke that’s inhaled. Beyond being somewhat cleaner and easier on the lungs, e-cigarettes have another advantage over the old method – you can customize the experience.

Starting with the vape juice that’s used, you can choose from dozens of flavors and control the level of nicotine. There are also options with no nicotine at all, making them more attractive to social smokers.

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