The Timeline: Tobacco

Alice-Azania Jarvis
Tuesday 11 January 2011 01:00 GMT

5000BC: Ancient smoke

As early as 5000BC, tobacco was being smoked in the Americas. Mayan civilisation smoked and chewed tobacco from around 1000BC, mixing in herbs for medical use. Smoking a pipe was an important part of religious rituals.

1492: Europe lights up

When Christopher Columbus arrived on the continent, he was presented with tobacco leaves – and discarded them. Another explorer, Rodrigo de Jerez, landed in Cuba in 1492 and embraced the habit. Back in Spain, he demonstrated the technique, prompting claims that he was possessed by the devil. Spaniards started smoking while he was jailed for seven years.

1600: Smoke comes to the UK

At the start of the 17th century, tobacco was regularly imported to the UK. Legend has it that Sir Walter Raleigh presented Queen Elizabeth with a pipe, which made her so sick that she believed she had been poisoned. In 1604, James I imposed the first tax on tobacco.

1830: The cigarette is born

Cigars had become a popular method of smoking in the 1700s. This evolved into the cigarette by 1830, when the South American "papelate" was popularised in France .

First World War: Hard sell

The inclusion of cigarettes in Army rations hooked a generation of men. Advertising firms depicted cigarettes as glamorous and sophisticated, and females' consumption soared.

1950s: Health hazard

Scientists began to realise tobacco was harmful in the early 1800s, but it wasn't until 1908, when the Children's Act banned its sale to under-16s, that it became a public health issue. In the 1950s, health warnings began to appear.

1970-1990s: The tide turns

The 1970s saw smoking bans on public transport and in cinemas. In 1984 National No Smoking Day was launched. After the 1987 King's Cross fire, smoking and tobacco advertising was banned on the London Underground and in 1999, tobacco advertising was totally banned.

Coming soon: No smokers?

In 2004, Ireland became the first country to ban smoking in public places. In 2006, Scotland followed, joined in 2007 by England. In January 2011, a study by Citigroup revealed that if current trends continue there will be no smokers left in the UK in 30-50 years.

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