Tobacco has a long history from its usages in the early Americas. It became increasingly popular with the arrival of the Europeans by whom it was heavily traded. Following the industrial revolution, cigarettes became popularized, which fostered yet another unparalleled increase in growth. This remained so until the scientific revelations in the mid-1990s.
“…men with half-burned wood in their hands and certain herbs to take their smokes, which are some dry herbs put in a certain leaf, also dry, like those the boys make on the day of the Passover of the Holy Ghost; and having lighted one part of it, by the other they suck, absorb, or receive that smoke inside with the breath, by which they become benumbed and almost drunk, and so it is said they do not feel fatigue. These, muskets as we will call them, they call tabacos. I knew Spaniards on this island of Española who were accustomed to take it, and being reprimanded for it, by telling them it was a vice, they replied they were unable to cease using it. I do not know what relish or benefit they found in it.
Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas by the time European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became popular. At high doses, tobacco can become hallucinogenic; accordingly, Native Americans did not always use the drug recreationally. Instead, it was often consumed as an entheogen; among some tribes, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men. Eastern North American tribes would carry large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item and would often smoke it in pipes, either in defined ceremonies that were considered sacred, or to seal a bargain, and they would smoke it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood. It was believed that tobacco was a gift from the Creator and that the exhaled tobacco smoke was capable of carrying one’s thoughts and prayers to heaven
Apart from smoking, tobacco had a number of uses as medicine. As a pain killer it was used for earache and toothache and occasionally as a poultice. Smoking was said by the desert Indians to be a cure for colds, especially if the tobacco was mixed with the leaves of the small Desert Sage, Salvia Dorrii, or the root of Indian Balsam or Cough Root, Leptotaenia multifida, the addition of which was thought to be particularly good for asthma and tuberculosis.Uncured tobacco was often eaten, used in enemas, or drunk as extracted juice. Early missionaries often reported on the ecstatic state caused by tobacco. As its use spread into Western cultures, however, it was no longer used primarily for entheogenic or religious purposes, although religious use of tobacco is still common among many indigenous peoples, particularly in the Americas. Among the Cree and Ojibway of Canada and the north-central United States, it is offered to the Creator, with prayers, and is used in sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies, smudging, and is presented as a gift. A gift of tobacco is tradition when asking an Ojibway elder a question of a spiritual nature. Because of its sacred nature, tobacco abuse (thoughtlessly and addictively chain smoking) is seriously frowned upon by the Algonquian tribes of Canada, as it is believed that if one so abuses the plant, it will abuse that person in return, causing sickness. The proper and traditional native way of offering the smoke is said to involve directing it toward the four cardinal points (north, south, east, and west), rather than holding it deeply within the lungs for prolonged periods.
Rodrigo de Jerez was one of the Spanish crewmen who sailed to the Americas on the Santa Maria as part of Christopher Columbus‘s first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. He is credited with being the first European smoker.
Following the arrival of Europeans, tobacco became one of the primary products fueling colonization, and also became a driving factor in the incorporation of African slave labor.