About 6000 BC: Experts believe the tobacco plant, as we know it today, begins growing in the Americas
1492-10-15: Columbus mentions tobacco. “We found a man in a canoe going from Santa Maria to Fernandia. He had with him some dried leaves which are in high value among them, for a quantity of it was brought to me at San Salvador” — Christopher Columbus’ Journal
1499: Amerigo Vespucci noticed that the American Indians had a curious habit of chewing green leaves mixed with a white powder. First, they put leaves in their mouths. Then, after dampening a small stick with saliva, they dipped it in the powder and mixed the adhering powder with the leaves in their mouths, making a kind of chewing tobacco.
By 1586, tobacco had arrived in English Society. In July 1586, some Virginia colonists returned to England and disembarked at Plymouth smoking tobacco from pipes, which caused a sensation.
1600: ENGLAND: Sir Walter Raleigh persuades Queen Elizabeth to try smoking
1612: John Rolfe raises Virginia’s first commercial crop of “tall tobacco.” In 1613, the first shipment of Rolfe’s tobacco arrives in England.
1730: First American tobacco factories begun in Virginia-small snuff mills
1794: The U.S Congress passes the first federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax of 8 cents applies only to snuff, not the more plebian chewing or smoking tobacco. The tax is 60 percent of snuff’s usual selling price. James Madison opposed the tax, saying it deprive poorer people of innocent gratification
1861-1865: During the Civil War, tobacco is given with rations by both North and South; many Northerners are introduced to tobacco this way. During Sherman’s march, Union soldiers, now attracted to the mild, sweet “bright” tobacco of the South, raided warehouses-including Washington Duke’s — for some chew on the way home. Some bright made it all the way back. Bright tobacco becomes the rage in the North.
1880s: U.S. Women’s Christian Temperance Movement publishes a leaflet that discusses evils of tobacco, especially cigarettes. Cigarettes are “doing more to-day to undermine the constitution of our young men and boys than any other one evil.”
1893: cigar-an-accessory-of-the-rich President Grover Cleveland is secretly operated on for cancer of the mouth.
1901: 3.5 billion cigarettes and 6 billion cigars are sold. Four in five American men smoke at least one cigar a day.
1902: Philip Morris sets up a corporation on Broad Street in New York to sell its British brands, including one named “cigs4us.biz/marlboro-cigarette“ named after “Great Marlborough Street,” site of Philip Morris’ original factory in London.
1904: A judge in New York sends a woman is sent to jail for 30 days for smoking in front of her children. 1908: New York city passes Sullivan Act, forbidding women to smoke in public. Managers of public establishments must not permit females to smoke. An earlier ordinance which would have forbidden men to smoke in the presence of women failed to pass. One Katie Mulcahy is arrested for lighting up. Two weeks after enactment, Mayor George B. McClellan vetoes the ordinance.
1929: Fritz Lickint of Dresden publishes the first formal statistical evidence of a lung cancer-tobacco link, based on a case series showing that lung cancer sufferers were likely to be smokers. Lickint also argued that tobacco use was the best way to explain the fact that lung cancer struck men four or five times more often than women (since women smoked much less).
1931: Cigarette Price Wars begin. Cigarettes sold for 14 cents a pack, 2-for-27 cents in the depths of the depression.
1940: Adult Americans smoke 2,558 cigarettes per capita a year, 2.5 times the consumption of 1930.
1940-1950: Muckraking pioneer George Seldes exposes the suppression of tobacco stories by the nation’s press As most tobacco-ad-laden newspapers refused to report the growing evidence of tobacco’s hazards, Seldes starts his own newsletter in which he covered tobacco. “For 10 years, we pounded on tobacco as one of the only legal poisons you could buy in America,” he told R. Holhut, editor of The George Seldes Reader.
1947: “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” hits airwaves. Written by Merle Travis for Tex Williams, is national hit.
1950: In the May 27, 1950 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, Morton Levin publishes first major study definitively linking smoking to lung cancer.
1950: American cigarette consumption is 10 cigarettes per capita, which equals over a pack a day for smokers.
1951: TV series “I Love Lucy” begins its run at 9:00 PM. It is sponsored by Philip Morris. The animated titles that open the show each week feature stick figures of Lucy and Desi climbing a giant pack of Philip Morris cigarettes. It is the top-rated show for four of its first six full seasons.
1954: Marlboro Cowboy created for Philip Morris by Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett. “Delivers the Goods on Flavor” ran the slogan in newspaper ads.
1955: Smokers: Males: 56.9 percent; females: 28.4 percent
1955: CBS’ “See It Now” airs first TV show linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer and other diseases. (For the first time on TV, Edward R. Murrow is not seen smoking. He had not quit; he felt it was “too late” to stop. Murrow died of lung cancer in 1965.)
1964: First Surgeon General’s Report linking smoking and lung cancer: Smoking and Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. 1965: Congress passes the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring the following Surgeon General’s Warning on the side of cigarette packs: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”
1969: Pan American Airlines creates the first nonsmoking sections on its jumbo jets; United Airlines did the same two years later.
1971-01-02: REGULATION: TV: Cigarette ads are taken off TV and radio as Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 takes effect. Broadcast industry loses c. $220 Million in ads (Ad Age, “History of TV Advertising”). The last commercial on U.S. TV is a Virginia Slims ad, aired at 11:59 p.m. on the Johnny Carson Tonight show, Jan. 1, 1971. The ad featured actress Veronica Hamel.
1987: Aspen, Colo., becomes the first city in the United States to ban smoking in restaurants.
1992: Nicotine patch is introduced.
1993: VERMONT is the first state in the nation to ban indoor smoking; bars are exempt.
1993: Smoking prevalence among U.S. adults (18 years of age and older) is estimated to be 25 percent, compared with 26.3 percent for 1992. Forty-six million adults currently smoke (24 million men, 22 million women).
1997: Forty-eight million Americans have quit in the 21 years since the first Smokeout in 1976; 48 million still smoke; about 34 million say they want to quit. Between 1965 and 1990, adult smoking declined from 42 percent to 25 percent. The average age of a first-time smoker is 13. More than 3 million American adolescents smoke cigarettes.
1997: Attorneys General, tobacco companies come to landmark settlement. Agreement provides for unprecedented restrictions on cigarettes and on tobacco makers’ liability in lawsuits. Industry to spend $360 billion over 25 years, mainly on anti-smoking campaigns, use bold health warning on packs, curb advertising and face fines if youth smoking drops insufficiently. Subject to congressional approval.
1997: President Bill Clinton signs Executive Order 13058 mandating smokefree government workplaces. The order states that tobacco use is to be prohibited from all government-owned, rented or leased interior spaces or in exterior spaces near air intake ducts. The order also prohibits smoking in all recreational buildings and clubs aboard military installations.
2006: Judge releases final order, finding that the tobacco defendants (except Ligget) are racketeers, having lied for 50 years, and deceived the American public on health issues and marketing to children. All that judge can do under civil RICO, however, is enjoin them from lying in the future, or using “light” type descriptors. She orders them to issue corrective statements, and expands the Minnesota document disclosure requirements. If this injunctive relief is ever implemented, it will only be after years of appeals.
2010: By May 1, 38 states are either smokefree or have some type of smoking ban.
By Gene Borio, Tobacco.org