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700 CE In 2012, Dmitri Zagorevski and Jennifer Loughmiller-Newman demonstrated via GC/MS and LC/MS chemical analysis that a Mayan ceramic vessel had contained unburned tobacco from around 700 CE.    [More Info]
Oct 12, 1492 Christopher Columbus lands on the beaches of San Salvador in the West Indies and is offered fruit, wooden spears, and dried tobacco leaves by the natives. 1  
Nov 1492 Two of Columbus's crew (Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres) become the first Europeans to witness the custom of tobacco smoking. de Jerez becomes a confirmed tobacco smoker, probably the first European to do so. 2  
16th Century Xochipilli statue carved. Aztec statue depicts the Prince of Flowers decorated with 6 psychoactive plants: mushrooms, tobacco, morning glory, sinicuichi, cacahuaxochitl, and one unidentified.   
1518 Juan de Grijalva lands in Yucatan, observes cigarette smoking by natives. 1  
1530 Bernardino de Sahagun, a missionary in Mexico, distinguishes between sweet commercial tobacco (N. tabacum) and coarse tobacco (N. rustica). 1  
1535 First printed source to contain a reference to tobacco smoking is published in Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes's Historia general y natural de las Indias, islas y tierra-firme del mar oceano. 2  
1556 Andre Thevet brought the first tobacco (N. tabacum) to France from Brazil. 1  
1559 Tobacco is dubbed "Nicotina" in honor of Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, who sent it from Portugal to the French court as a medicine, beginning its spread in upper-class circles. 3  
1560 Indians along the Rio Guaviare in Colombia take yopo along with tobacco.   
1561 Tobacco first introduced in Italy by Cardinal Prospero di Santa Croce. 1  
1565 Tobacco seeds are introduced into England, but smoking does not spread until Sir Walter Raleigh makes it fashionable in the court in the mid-1570s. 3  
1570 First known picture of a tobacco plant printed in Europe. Accompanied by a diagram of a smoking tube made of plant materials used by Indians and sailors. 1  
1571 Although smoking for pleasure is still controversial, tobacco as a medicine is almost universally approved. Nicolas Monardes devotes the second part of his book on New World plants to a lengthy section on tobacco, recommending it as an infallible cure for 36 different ailments. Summing up current beliefs regarding this much-praised herba panacea, or holy herb, Monardes' work (1571, 1574) becomes the fundamental source for all subsequent pro-tobacco literature. 3  
1575 - 1600 China/Japan. Limited smoking is apparent in S. China, probably introduced by Portuguese sailors and merchants. 3  
1575 - 1600 England. Smoking becomes the "duty" of every man of fashion; tobacco is worth its weight in silver. Numerous publications praise its medicinal virtues, starting with John Frampton's translation of Monardes, titled Joyful Newes Oute of the Newe Founde Worlde (1577). 3  
1575 - 1600 Italy. Tobacco is cultivated as a medicinal herb in Tuscany and Rome, but there is no evidence that it is widely smoked. 3  
1575 - 1600 Turkey. Sultan Murad II cultivates tobacco as a novelty and a medicine after smoking is introduced by the English. 3  
1585 Tobacco was being cultivated by European settlers in North Carolina. 1  
1603 Japan. Cultivation of Tobacco begins and smoking spreads among all classes, prompting several severe imperial prohibitions (1603+). Prohibitions are governed by fears over outbreaks of fires, foreign influences, and interference in the cultivation of more valuable food crops such as rice. Despite increasing penalties, including property confiscations, death threats, fines and imprisonment, all bans fail. The prohibitions gradually fall into disuse from lack of enforcement. 3  
1628 Virginia was given a monopoly on tobacco exports to England. 500,000 pounds of tobacco were shipped. 1  
1638 1,400,000 pounds of tobacco shipped from America to Britain. 1  
1638 China. The Ming emperor decrees any person trafficking in tobacco will be decapitated (1638), the decree proves ineffectual as smoking spreads within the court. A second prohibition is issued in 1641. 3  
1639 Governor Kieft bans smoking in New Amsterdam (New York). The populace ignores his decree. 1  
1642 Papacy. Two papal bulls ban tobacco use by the clergy under penalty of excommunication (1642,1650). 3  
1644 China. The Manchu, having conquered China, revoke all existing smoking bans. China becomes the great smoking nation of Asia. Snuff is introduced by the Jesuits. 3  
1650 - 1675 Japan. All Tobacco prohibitions are repealed. 3  
1655 Papacy. Pope Alexander VII farms out spirits and tobacco monopolies (1655, 1660). 3  
1659 Italy. Venice establishes the first tobacco appalto or state monopoly, selling the exclusive right to import, manufacture, or trade in tobacco to a private party. 3  
1674 France. Louis XIV establishes a tobacco monopoly in imitation of the Italians. 3  
1674 Russia. A Tobacco smoking ban is established, with a death penalty (1674) . Use continues to increase and restraints are lifted two years later (c. 1676). Smoking spreads from the court and foreign circles to the general population. 3  
1730 The first American tobacco factories began in Virginia, in the form of small snuff mills. 1  
1780 "Tobacco War" waged by Lord Cornwallis in Virginia to destroy America's credit abroad. 1  
1809 Nicotine is first observed as an active product in tobacco juice by French scientist Vauguelin.   
1832 First documented use of tobacco rolled in paper, by Egyptian canoneer at siege of the Turkish city of Acre. 4  
1843 First French commercial production of rolled cigarettes 4  
Mid 1800s Xochipilli statue discovered by Europeans in central Mexico.   
1856 First British cigarette factory opens. 4   [Details]
1856 Health issues related to smoking tobacco cigarettes are discussed in The Lancet. 5  
1880 The four leading cigarette companies did 80% of US business in cigarettes and sold 532,718 cigarettes in 1880 along with 2.4 billion cigars. 4  
1880-1881 Cigarette rolling machine invented by 18-yr-old James Bonsack. Prior to this, all cigarettes were hand-rolled. 6  
1883-1884 James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, bought the rights to the first cigarette-making machine, which had previously been discarded as mechanically flawed. After improving the technology he adopted the machine in his factory, dropping the cost of production, leading to an increase in cigarette smoking. 6  
1889 Annual cigarette production in US is 2,413,349,000 (2.4 billion) 4  
late 1890's Cigarette sales slump in US as tax was raised from $.50 to $1.50 per thousand to help pay for Spanish-American War 4  
aprox. 1885-1910 Most cigarette packages came with trading cards, a practice which later switched to bubble gum in the 20th Century. 4  
circa 1900 Sales dropped from 600 million to 40 million cigarettes in 2 years. 4  
1900 Japan bans the use of cigarettes by anyone under the age of 20. 5  
1902 US tax lowered to $.54 per thousand, sales increase. 4  
1904 3 billion cigarettes sold in US 4  
1907 American Tobacco Company is split by US Government in anti-trust (monopoly) law suit. It had been formed in 1889 after James B. Duke merged five separate companies. 4  
1907-1950 The health implications of smoking are debated. Cigarettes are still marketed as "healthy" while the medical community gathers more evidence of health problems associated in particular with heavy smoking. 5  
1912 13 billion cigarettes sold 4  
1918 Camel cigarette company controls 40% of US cigarette market 4  
1939 German scientists propose a link between smoke inhalation and lung cancer. 5  
1965 New "Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act" requires all cigarette packages in the United States to carry a warning stating "Caution--cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health".   
1967 U.S. Federal Trade Commission releases first tar and nicotine report. 5  
1972 Australia requires packs of cigarettes to display a health warning. 5  
1996 President Clinton announces a comprehensive anti-smoking program in the U.S. which includes granting the FDA jurisdiction to regulate cigarettes as nicotine delivery devices.   
1998 California becomes the first U.S. state to ban tobacco smoking in nearly all bars.   
2000 Canada begins requiring cigarette label warnings that include color pictures.   
2000 U.S. Supreme Court finds that the FDA does not have the authority to regulate tobacco, invalidating Clinton's 1996 regulations.   

  1.   Heimann RK. Tobacco & Americans. McGraw-Hill, 1960.
  2.   Wilbert J. Tobacco and Shamanism in South America. Yale UP, 1987.
  3.   Austin G. "A Chronology of Psychoactive Substance Use".
  4.   Lewine H. Good-Bye To All That. McGraw-Hill, 1970.
  5.   Farrington K. This is Nicotine. Sanctuary Pub, 2002.