History of Tobacco

Tobacco has a long history in the Americas. The Mayan Indians of Mexico carved drawings in stone showing tobacco use. These drawings date back to somewhere between 600 to 900 A.D. Tobacco was grown by American Indians before the Europeans came from England, Spain, France, and Italy to North America. Native Americans smoked tobacco through a pipe for special religious and medical purposes. They did not smoke every day.

Tobacco was the first crop grown for money in North America. In 1612 the settlers of the first American colony in Jamestown, Virginia grew tobacco as a cash crop. It was their main source of money. Other cash crops were corn, cotton, wheat, sugar, and soya beans. Tobacco helped pay for the American Revolution against England. Also, the first President of the U.S. grew tobacco.

By the 1800’s, many people had begun using small amounts of tobacco. Some chewed it. Others smoked it occasionally in a pipe, or they hand rolled a cigarette or cigar. On the average, people smoked about 40 cigarettes a year. The first commercial cigarettes were made in 1865 by Washington Duke on his 300 acre farm in Raleigh, North Carolina. His hand rolled cigarettes were sold to soldiers at the end of the Civil War.

It was not until James Bonsack invented the cigarette making machine in 1881 that cigarette smoking became widespread. Bonsack’s cigarette machine could make 120,000 cigarettes a day. He went into business with Washington Duke’s son, James “Buck” Duke. They built a factory and made 10 million cigarettes their first year and about one billion cigarettes five years later. The first brand of cigarettes were packaged in a box with baseball cards and were called Duke of Durham. Buck Duke and his father started the first tobacco company in the U.S. They named it the American Tobacco Company.

Credit An 1892 Duke of Durham box of machine rolled cigarettes Tobacco Biology & Politics

The American Tobacco Company was the largest and most powerful tobacco company until the early 1900’s. Several companies were making cigarettes by the early 1900’s. In 1902 Philip Morris company came out with its Marlboro brand.

They were selling their cigarettes mainly to men. Everything changed during World War I (1914 18) and World War II (1939 45). Soldiers overseas were given free cigarettes every day. At home production increased and cigarettes were being marketed to women too. More than any other war, World War II brought more independence for women. Many of them went to work and started smoking for the first time while their husbands were away.

By 1944 cigarette production was up to 300 billion a year. Service men received about 75% of all cigarettes produced. The wars were good for the tobacco industry. Since WW II, there have been six giant cigarette companies in the U.S. They are Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Brands, Lorillard, Brown & Williamson, and Liggett & Myers (now called the Brooke Group). They make millions of dollars selling cigarettes in the U.S. and all over the world.

In 1964 the Surgeon General of the U.S. (the chief doctor for the country) wrote a report about the dangers of cigarette smoking. He said that the nicotine and tar in cigarettes cause lung cancer. In 1965 the Congress of the U.S. passed the Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act. It said that every cigarette pack must have a warning label on its side stating “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.”

By the 1980’s, the tobacco companies had come out with new brands of cigarettes with lower amounts of tar and nicotine and improved filters to keep their customers buying and to help reduce their fears. The early 1980’s were called the “tar wars” because tobacco companies competed aggressively to make over 100 low tar and “ultra” low tar cigarettes. Each company made and sold many different brands of cigarettes.

In 1984 Congress passed another law called the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act. It said that the cigarette companies every three months had to change the warning labels on cigarette packs. It created four different labels for the companies to rotate.

Public Law 98 474, “Comprehensive Smoking Education Act, 1984”

Credit Smoking Tobacco & Health, Centers for Disease Control

Since the 1980’s, federal, state, local governments, and private companies have begun taking actions to restrict cigarette smoking in public places. The warning labels were the first step. Tobacco companies cannot advertise cigarettes on television or radio. It is against a law that was passed by Congress in 1971. Many cities across the U.S. do not allow smoking in public buildings and restaurants. Since 1990, airlines have not allowed smoking on airplane flights in the U.S. that are six hours or less. State taxes on cigarettes have increased.

As it becomes more difficult for tobacco companies to sell their products in the U.S., they are looking outside. U.S. tobacco companies are now growing tobacco in Africa, South America (Brazil and Paraguay), India, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Greece, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. Fifty percent (50%) of the sales of U.S. tobacco companies go to Asian countries, such as Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, the Phillipines, and Taiwan.

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Welcome to The E Cigarette Summit

The E Cigarette Summit was held at The Royal Society on Thursday 13th November and was attended by over 250 individuals from industry, public health and academia. The presentations from the day can be found on the Resources page.

The 2014 E Cigarette Summit will take place at the Royal Society, London on the 13th November 2014 and will provide a neutral environment for scientists, policymakers, medical and public health professionals and e cigarette stakeholders to come together and look at the latest scientific research and evidence available on e cigarettes and debate their impact in context of health and regulation.

The issue of how to regulate and manage the exponential growth of e cigarettes continues to divide scientists, policy makers and health professionals alike. Previously allied organisation, with a shared vision of reducing smoking prevalence, have for the first time found themselves in public debate and disagreement. Whether e cigarettes will undermine tobacco control measures and re normalise smoking behaviour or present the best opportunity of a generation to reduce smoking prevalence by supporting an attractive tobacco harm reduction alternative, has become a contentious issue.

How each country introduces, interprets and implements legislation such as the TPD, including consumer and medical licensing routes, will have far reaching consequences. Setting the regulatory bar at the correct level, will be vital to harnessing the opportunities that e cigarettes could offer while remaining responsive to a fast moving and emerging market, that neither health professionals nor governments have been involved in creating.

Alongside examining the latest scientific evidence on the safety of e cigarettes, The E Cigarette Summit will also address broader debates including evidence on Gateway for children and non smokers, advertising and marketing, use in public places and the conflicts arising from the tobacco industry’s dual corporate ownership of tobacco harm reduction products and cigarettes.

The E Cigarette Summit will include high level briefings from experts and encourage interaction through panel debates and open floor discussions. Questions will be explored in a balanced and objective environment allowing attendees to build their knowledge and share their viewpoints. So, are e cigarettes a backward step in the fight against smoking or the single greatest transformative public health phenomenon? Whichever side of the debate you fall on, this is likely to be one of the most significant public health issuse for a generation.

What is at stake?

Smoking is the biggest single cause of preventable death in the developed world, and causes more than 5 million deaths per year with trends suggesting that tobacco use will result in more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030. The devastating effect of long term smoking cannot be underestimated, with up to half of all lifetime smokers dying from smoking related diseases and many more suffering a seriously compromised quality of life. It is well recognised that the most damaging health impacts are caused by the combustion of tobacco, rather than the consumption of nicotine.

Despite these known risks, tobacco products and cigarettes remain readily available. This fact makes the debate over whether to regulate e cigarettes more strictly than cigarettes which are estimated to be between 99% and 95% safer highly controversial and has divided opinion amongst health campaigners and policy makers.

Who Should Attend?

The E Cigarette Summit will provide a timely opportunity for all stakeholders to debate and explore the future of e cigarettes, and will include high level panel debates from opposing perspectives to ensure a balanced and objective debate.

In particular, this event will be relevant to

  • Regulators and policy advisors
  • Health providers, health charities and health practitioners
  • Local Authorities and Environmental Health
  • Public health professionals and academics
  • Scientific/research community
  • Medical and health professionals
  • e cigarette industry stakeholders