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Tobacco

When Sir Francis Drake returned to England from the New World he had with him two plants never before seen in Europe, namely the potato and tobacco. England’s reaction to the plants was echoed all through out Europe. The potato was seen as poisonous while tobacco was seen with wonder and amazement.1 Tobacco trade during the 15th, 16th, and 17th ...

When Sir Francis Drake returned to England from the New World he had with him two plants never before seen in Europe, namely the potato and tobacco. England’s reaction to the plants was echoed all through out Europe. The potato was seen as poisonous while tobacco was seen with wonder and amazement.1 Tobacco trade during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries was the first priority of the Europeans to control that trade from interlopers.

Efforts at limiting the consumption of tobacco for medicinal purposes during the 17th century failed all over Europe. In Turkey one could be beheaded for smoking in public. In Russia and Austria one could be fined, jailed, or tortured and in England King James I (the same king who realized that taxing tobacco made lots of money for the government) wrote about tobacco’s horribly addictive properties and the terrible black soot that it left in one’s lungs. The Catholic Church even tried its hand at limiting the use of tobacco by proclaiming its everyday use to be sinful. Few people listened, as there were no biblical passages that talked about the evils of smoking or sniffing tobacco.8

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