Up in Smoke: The UK’s Dark History With Cigs
It is a “custome loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black and stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.”
That’s what King James I had to say about smoking tobacco in 1604, and we couldn’t agree with him more! If only we had a time machine, we’d ask him to be a new spokesperson for Vapemate.
Those strong words came just over 30 years after Sir Francis Drake had brought tobacco to England from the New World. It wasn’t long before the “custome” of smoking spread throughout the country and many were addicted. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the tobacco industry flourished in the American colonies under British rule. It was so popular that in 1724, Pope Benedict XIII adopted the habit and repealed the rule that clerics were not allowed to smoke.
Later in the 18th century, cigars and snuff were added to pipe tobacco as a means of smoking, despite increasing fears from physicians such as John Hill, who was possibly the first doctor to make a connection between smoking and cancer in the 1760s. There are also reports of an experiment in which a cat instantly died after being fed distilled oil from tobacco. We are not envious of that cat.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that cigarettes became popular in the UK, after being imported from the Arab world. During the Crimean War of the 1850s, British soldiers quickly caught on to the habit of smoking cigs like their Turkish mates did.
Soon, the medical community would be taking a much closer look at cig smoking and its connection to cancer and other maladies, but sadly it seems that it was too late. Cigs had many people addicted and were a part of the culture.
Look out for part two of this story next month, we’ll take a look at the medical community’s efforts to research the effects of smoking and educate the public as well as the birth of Big Tobacco, which sadly still thrives today.