Historical story

The invention of the cigarette

Smoking has had different meanings throughout history. In the process of discovering the American continent, the habit would be an exoticism appreciated by the curious Europeans. Centuries later, the films of the first American films put a pompous cigarette in the mouths of their divas and heartthrobs as a sign of their sophisticated lifestyle. Nowadays, it is the target of major legal disputes and campaigns that combat the extremely harmful habit to health.

However, who would be primarily responsible for creating this habit that still attracts thousands of people around the world? According to research on the subject, the discovery of cigarettes must be attributed to the natives who lived on the American continent. Some archaeological evidence indicates that cigarette consumption has been going on for more than eight thousand years. The Aztecs smoked tobacco rolled in reed leaves or reed tubes. Other peoples preferred the old, and still well-known, corn husk.

In a 10th century Mayan vase, archaeological Indic were found with a drawing of a group of indigenous people smoking a wad of tobacco leaves wrapped around a type of string. Approximately five centuries later, when Christopher Columbus arrived in America, Europeans took a liking to the habits of the natives found in the Bahamas region. On that occasion, the navigator Rodrigo de Xerxes tried out the indigenous habit and, when he returned to Europe, he took some leaves with him.

A few decades later, Europeans began to reinvent the ways of tobacco consumption. In the 16th century, the first cigars appeared, which were restricted to a small portion of the population who could afford to pay for the expensive spice. Surprisingly, it was the very exclusionary nature of the cigar that paved the way for the creation of the cigarette. Poor workers in Seville chopped cigar scraps in the street and rolled them up in paper.

By creating this “alternative cigar” we would have established the first cigarettes in all of history. Despite the creativity employed and the functionality of the new product, it took several centuries for cigarette consumption to become quite popular. According to some estimates, at the end of the 19th century, the habit of chewing tobacco was much more popular than smoking. Only at the end of that same century, the cigarette was popularized when James Bonsack created the cigarette rolling machine.

During the First World War (1914 – 1918), soldiers were given cigarette packs in the war trenches. Currently, by some estimates, about a billion people smoke regularly. The popularization of its consumption ended up inciting several public health problems that today justify the prohibition by law of the use of cigarettes in places where there is a large circulation of people.

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