History And Overview Of The Problem Early Beginnings

The use of tobacco (Nicotine tobaccum) has been traced to early American civilizations, where it played a prominent role in religious rites and ceremonies. Among the ancient Maya, tobacco smoke was used as "solar incense" to bring rain during the dry season. Shooting stars were believed to be burning butts cast off by the rain god. The Aztecs employed tobacco (Nicotine rustica) as a power that was used in ceremonial rites as well as chewed as a euphoric agent with lime (Schultes, 1978).

In 1492, Columbus and his crew observed natives lighting rolls of dried leaves, which they called tobacos (cigars), and "swallowing" the smoke (Schultes, 1978). Twenty years later, Juan Ponce de Leon brought tobacco back to Portugal, where it soon was grown on Portuguese soil. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced smoking to England in 1565, and the English, too, successfully grew tobacco (Vogt, 1982). The growth of world trade led to the spread of tobacco to every corner of the globe.

The popular "weed" was not without its detractors. James I of England published a counterblaste to tobacco in 1604, and he arranged a public debate on the effects of tobacco in 1605. Pope Urban III condemned tobacco use in 1642, threatening excommunication of offenders. In Russia, a decree in 1634 punished tobacco users by nose slitting, castration, flogging, and banishment. These harsh measures were abolished by Peter the Great, who took to smoking a pipe in an effort to open a window to the West. It is believed that the smok ing of cigarettes first occurred in Mexico, where chopped tobacco was wrapped in corn husks (Van Lancker, 1977).

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