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Tobacco has been around for 9000 years.  It was a medicinal product used by the Mayans who took it with them as they populated South America, dispersing it far and wide.  It wasn’t until 1000 years ago that they began to chew and smoke the leaves while they also used them along with plants and herbs as medicine.

Columbus was probably the first European to see tobacco leaves although he did not smoke them himself.

A fellow explorer, Rodrigo de Jerez, shortly after, landed in Cuba and observed some of the inhabitants smoking the tobacco leaves. He then proceeded to partake in the smoking act himself.

On his return to Spain, laden with heaps of tobacco, Jerez startled his fellow countrymen by smoking in front of them. Never in their lives had they seen a man with smoke coming out of his mouth and nose. People thought that he was possessed by the devil and members of the Spanish Inquisition imprisoned him for several years. During his imprisonment, smoking actually became quite popular in Spain. ”

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Initially tobacco imported from the new world into Europe was used in pipe smoking and in snuff.

Cigarettes as we know them today emerged in the mid 1800’s.  In London pipe smoking and snuff had become quite popular but with the advent of a cigarette machine (and thus mass production) the cigarette grew immensely in mass consumption.

A cigarette from the French for “small cigar”. Cigar comes, through the Spanish and Portuguese cigarro, from the Mayan siyar; “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves”

But it was the military, both British and American, that popularized smoking as they issued cigarettes with basic rations.  Having become addicted to tobacco, these soldiers then went home and introduced smoking to the wider culture, starting with their friends and families.

Popular myth says that the dangers of smoking were first understood in the 50’s but that is not so.  The Nazis began and anti-tobacco program in the 30’s which included advertising bans, public campaigns against smoking and many other programs in use today.  Smoking was restricted in public and a cigarette tax was introduced.  Hitler himself was against the use of tobacco.  He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink and he was a vegetarian.

The anti-smoking backlash was under way as early as 1904 in Germany and other countries.

“The first such German language journal was Der Tabakgegner (The Tobacco Opponent), published by the Bohemian organization between 1912 and 1932. Deutscher Tabakgegner (German Tobacco Opponent) was published in Dresden from 1919 to 1935, and was the second journal on this subject”

Various additives are combined into the shredded tobacco product mixtures, with humectants such as propylene glycol or glycerol, as well as flavouring products and enhancers such as cocoa solids, licorice, tobacco extracts, and various sugars, which are known collectively as “casings”. The leaf tobacco will then be shredded, along with a specified amount of small laminate, expanded tobacco, BL, RL, ES and IS. A perfume-like flavour/fragrance, called the “topping” or “toppings”, which is most often formulated by flavor companies, will then be blended into the tobacco mixture to improve the consistency in flavour and taste of the cigarettes associated with a certain brand name. Additionally, they replace lost flavours due to the repeated wetting and drying used in processing the tobacco. Finally the tobacco mixture will be filled into cigarettes tubes and packaged.

A list of 599 cigarette additives, created by five major American cigarette companies, were approved by the Department of Health and Human Services in April 1994. None of these additives are listed as ingredients on the cigarette pack(s). Chemicals are added for organoleptic purposes and many boost the addictive properties of cigarettes, especially when burned.

One of the chemicals on the list, ammonia, helps convert bound nicotine molecules in tobacco smoke into free nicotine molecules. This process is known as freebasing which enhances the effect of the nicotine on the smoker.

Here is a list of additives in tobacco. Hint – there’s a whole heck of a lot of them.

So, the tobacco companies knew they had a lethal and toxic product from 1904 onward and despite that knowledge they mass marketed it nonetheless.  In fact, they used the american government via the military to expand their sales beginning with the soldiers and then later their friends and families.

Today over 1 billion people smoke on the planet.  In the developing world smoking is rampant and largely unregulated.  As sales of tobacco have declined in the developed world the tobacco companies have simply moved overseas to the less enlightened developing countries.  With the full knowledge that they will kill millions more people in doing so.

“U.S. tobacco companies have a long history of deceit, deception and duplicity in their relentless pursuit of profit. These companies have hooked generations of American smokers using the tools of manipulative advertising, disinformation campaigns refuting the health consequences of smoking, and political lobbying. In the process, they have grown into enormous multinational conglomerates. In recent years, as smoking has declined in the United States, they have begun to look elsewhere for growth.”

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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world and one of it’s biggest causes is smoking.