Tobacco has a long and interesting history in America and Europe. This is evident from the fact that stone drawings depicting use of tobacco made by the Mayan Indians have been found by archaeologists. Tobacco was initially used by Americans in the pre-Columbian era. It is said that the natives cultivated tobacco and smoked it in pipes. Back then, it was used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes. Nevertheless, people did not smoke everyday and were not addicted to tobacco or nicotine.
Apparently, the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus brought some tobacco seeds and leaves to Europe to begin its cultivation. However, the Europeans remained unaware of tobacco until the mid-sixteenth century when prominent people and diplomats started promoting it. Soon, tobacco was made accessible to the people in the entire continent. In the beginning, tobacco found its way into France in 1556, Spain in 1559 and lastly England in 1565.
The first known cultivation of tobacco for commercial purposes was in Virginia in 1612 by an Englishman named John Rolfe. In less than a decade, it became the colony’s largest export. Growth of tobacco as a cash crop has witnessed an upward trend since then. By the 1800s, the use of tobacco had become fairly popular among the masses. Some chewed it, some smoked it in a pipe while others rolled it in a cigarette or cigar. It is reported that people used to smoke 40 cigarettes per year on an average.
The Advent of Tobacco Smoking
Initially, tobacco was cultivated for pipe-smoking and chewing. Cigars did not become popular until the early 19th century. It was not until 1865 that cigarettes were made on a commercial basis. For the first time, cigarettes were manufactured by the Washington Duke on his farm in North Carolina. His cigarettes were hand-rolled and sold in large numbers to soldiers at the end of the Civil War. Sixteen years later, in 1881 when James Bonsack invented the cigarette making machine, tobacco cigarettes immensely grew in popularity, making it easier for the public to consume them.
Bonsack’s cigarette machine was capable of making 120,000 cigarettes per day and could satisfy the growing demand for cigarettes in America. Soon, James Bonsack joined hands with the son of Washington’s duke and started manufacturing tobacco cigarettes on a larger scale. A massive factory was set up that produced 10 million cigarettes in its inaugural year. Within 5 years of operation, the unit became capable of making one billion cigarettes.
The first brand of cigarettes, known as the Duke of Durham was packaged in a box along with baseball cards. The Duke and his father established the first tobacco company in America and named it the American Tobacco Company. This company emerged as the most powerful and largest organization in the entire country until the early 20th century. Nevertheless, other brands such as Marlboro by Philip Morris came up in the early 1900s.
These cigarettes were mainly sold to men. However, this trend changed during the World War I and World War II periods when cigarettes were given to soldiers Pipe tobacco for sale free of cost. As production boosted in America, cigarettes were marketed to the fairer sex too. In fact, the World War II era marked the turning point in the cigarette manufacturing industry. It was during this period that women began to work and consume tobacco while their husbands were away at the field.
The Modern Day Tobacco Cigarette
By mid 20th century, all the cigarette manufacturing units operating in America produced a total of 300 billion units a year, 75 percent of which were sent to service men. It can be stated that the two world wars were a boon to the tobacco industry who made insane amounts of profit during that period. Since World War II, there have been six cigarette companies dominant in America. These include Lorillard, Philip Morris, Brown and Williamson, R.J Reynolds, Liggett and Myers and American Brands. These brand not only gained impetus in America but the entire world as they began to import products.
Problems Faced by the Cigarette Industry
In spite of making huge profits, tobacco cigarette manufacturers faced a hard time in the 1960s. In 1964, the chief Doctor of America wrote a report mentioning the ill effects of consuming tobacco cigarettes. He said that nicotine and tar, the primary ingredients of a cigarette were carcinogens and could cause serious health complications in an individual. A year later, the cigarette labeling and advertising act was passed by the congress of the United States of America according to which every cigarette packet was to have a warning label on its side stating the hazardous nature of the product.
In 1984, the United States government passed the Comprehensive Smoking Education act, which made it mandatory for manufacturing companies to change warning labels every three months. This gave rise to four different warning labels each of which highlighted the probable impact of consuming a cigarette on one’s body. The government has taken several steps to discourage people from smoking. Whether it’s passing of state laws that ban people from smoking in public places or officially forbidding cigarette manufacturing companies to advertise their products on television or radio, government bodies has adopted several methods to restrain people from smoking.
Soon after the implementation of laws, cigarette companies came out with innovative ideas to sell their product. One way was to introduce low nicotine and low tar cigarettes to lure people to purchase them. In addition, many companies also began using advanced filters which would help reduce the consumers’ fear. A few other companies, that faced difficulty in selling their products in the United States of America, began to import stuff. It is reported that more than 50 percent of the revenue earned by American cigarette companies comes from Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, India and South Korea.