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Tobacco has an interesting and varied history. The popularity of chewing and smoking tobacco led to it being a highly sought-after and traded cash crop. By the 1700s, smoking had become widespread and created the need for a tobacco industry.

Many people still smoke tobacco and use tobacco products today, despite all the negative health consequences. Luckily, addiction treatment today looks quite different than it did in the 1700s.


Knowing what we do today about the effects of smoking and tobacco, it is interesting to look back to a time like the 1700s and see the genesis of the smoking phenomenon unfold. Tobacco’s uses and applications have changed over history, as has the public opinion surrounding it.

Different Views of and Uses for Tobacco

You can look at tobacco through many different lenses throughout history. Consider the development of the tobacco industry through an agrarian lens, for example. As soon as smoking and chewing tobacco became popular, tobacco became a cash crop — one that farmers could get a high price for. This led to a thriving industry.


The tobacco industry really grew in the 1700s as exploration led to more people using the product. Tobacco became so popular that it was even used as currency in some areas and in religious ceremonies and traditions. The different uses for tobacco and how it was smoked were largely dependent on who discovered it and how they brought it back to their own country.


Tobacco use gradually became a major component of European culture across the 16th and 17th century. This led to the popularization of the substance in Europeans’ home countries, and American colonists were already prone to embracing it throughout the 1700s.


The agrarian lens turns to a social and societal lens when you think of the ways tobacco was used as it became more and more popular. This major societal and habitual shift was beginning to take place — one that would impact society through the present day and beyond.

The Rise in Popularity of Smoking

In the historical story of tobacco, the 1700s are perhaps best known as the time that smoking (instead of chewing) tobacco became more popular. Cancer Council NSW reports that a thriving tobacco industry developed in the 1700s. This made it easier than ever for tobacco to grow in popularity and for people to explore diverse ways to use and enjoy the plant.


The rise in popularity of smoking cigars during the 1700s is what led to the eventual development of the cigarette in 1830. The 1700s were a time of exploration when it came to tobacco, with people trying out all sorts of ways to smoke tobacco leaves.


This is also the time that smoking became a sort of social staple for those who had access to it. Smoking signified status and wealth. It was even used in a medicinal way to treat ailments of many types. Looking ahead, it is easy to see how this translated into smoking being viewed as cool in later years. It’s also ironic, considering what we know today about the negative impact tobacco actually has on our health.

Tobacco’s Lasting Impact Today

There is no doubt that the development and use of tobacco throughout history has left a lasting impact that continues to this day. Medical News Today reports that smoking and tobacco-related disease is responsible for approximately one in five of all annual deaths in the United States. It’s clear that smoking tobacco is extremely bad for your health and can negatively impact your vein health, wreak havoc on your organs, and decrease your lifespan.


There are plenty of reasons why you should not smoke, so why do so many people do it? The cultural precedent that was set long ago that smoking is something to aspire to, something to enjoy, and something to do in a social setting. Once you try smoking, the problem then becomes an addiction. It is interesting to think about how something introduced so long ago, even well before the 1700s, can still be causing our society problems today.


However, there are a few alternatives to tobacco cigarettes coming onto the market today, as well as a great deal more opportunities for addiction treatment and support. Some of these new alternatives, like vaping and e-cigarettes, have been thought to be healthier, but studies show that these options could still be putting cancer-causing toxins into your body.


While it is great that people are trying to come up with viable alternatives to traditional cigarettes and the plethora of problems they cause, it is clear that vaping and e-cigarettes come with other problems too, like high fire risk. Smoking is dangerous to your health any way you look at it.


When you look back to the 18th century, it is important to remember that people were largely unaware of the problems tobacco would cause down the road. At the onset, tobacco seemed fun, exciting, profitable, and more. The 1700s were a key time in the rise in popularity of smoking tobacco and the incredibly prolific and widespread industry it would lead to down the road. While we have to contend with many healthcare problems related to tobacco use to this day, it’s fascinating to see how the plant’s history has affected mankind.

About the Author:
Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.