The Long Complex History of Tobacco Usage in the U.S.

Tobacco Usage in the U.S.

Native Americans have been using tobacco for religious ceremonies for thousands of years and tobacco was considered a sign of respect when offered as a gift. In fact in 1492 when Christopher Columbus showed up in America he was offered dried tobacco leaves as a gift from Native Americans, as a sign of respect.

Shortly thereafter, sailors returning from the U.S. brought tobacco back to European shores and the plant was grown all over Europe. Early on Europeans believed tobacco had medicinal properties and would cure just about any illness or health problem, from bad breath to serious diseases.

Around 1571 a Spanish physician, Nicola Monardes wrote one of the first in-depth books about the history of medicinal plants of the “new world” and claimed tobacco could cure serious health problems. 

And, in 1588 a Virginian Thomas Hardy wrote another lengthy book promoting the practice of smoking tobacco to ensure consumers were getting sufficient amounts into their body.

Little Known Historical Milestones About Tobacco

  • In the 1600’s the popularity of tobacco was so significant it was used as money. A coin of the realm if you will.
  • In 1632 tobacco was banned from smoking publicly in Plymouth Rock but this was not attributed to health reasons but to morality: Puritans considered it evil.
  • The first commercial tobacco company was started by Pierre Lorillard in New York City with the purpose of processing and manufacturing cigars, tobacco and snuff – fast forward to today, every online smoke shop can be traced back to Lorillard
  • During the American Revolutionary War tobacco was a mainstay of the republic, tobacco was used as collateral for loans the Americans borrowed from France.
  • In 1826 nicotine was finally discovered as an active element in tobacco.
  • In 1847 Phillip Morris Corporation was established, getting their start selling hand rolled Turkish cigarettes and two years later in 1849 J.E. Liggett and Brothers were founded in St Louis, MO. Cigarettes became increasingly more popular as soldiers brought them back to the UK after the Crimean war.
  • Cigarettes here in America were initially made from scraps of leaves left over after production of tobacco products, especially chewing tobacco, which was becoming increasingly popular with cowboys in the American west.
  • In 1875 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was born (more broadly known at the time for manufacturing Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil for preserving food) – it started manufacturing chewing tobacco, not cigarettes.
  • In 1902 Phillip Morris (British company) set up a headquarters in New York City and started making its Marlboro brand.

tobacco shop

The Modern Online Tobacco Shop has its Roots in Traditional Commerce

In the early 1900’s cigarette consumption exploded and tobacco products moved into the mainstream American culture. In 1901 an estimated 3.5 billion cigarettes were sold and over 6 billion cigars were also sold in this time-frame.

During World War II cigarette sales (tobacco) were at an all time high and cigarettes were even bundled with a soldier’s C-Rations during the war. And, tobacco companies shipped millions of cigarettes to soldiers on the frontlines, helping to popularize its usage.

As the popularity of cigarettes increased the modern tobacco shop was born and R.J. Reynolds attempted to capitalize on the newfound popularity of cigarettes with the now famous Camel brand.

Fast forward to today and the modern tobacco online store or cigar store now serves consumers, with cigars, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, a wide array of smoking accessories.