A Brief History of Tobacco in the Americas

A Brief History of Tobacco in the Americas

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The history of tobacco use in the Americas goes back over 1,000 years when natives of the region chewed or smoked the leaves of the plant now known as Nicotiana rustica (primarily in the north) and Nicotiana tabacum (mostly in the south). After European colonization, tobacco would become the most profitable crop exported from the Americas.

This plant grew wild but came to be cultivated by the natives for use in religious rituals and hunting parties as it was thought to expand the mind and heighten one's sensations overall. After 1492 CE, European colonization of the West Indies and South and Central America shifted the focus of tobacco to recreational use. By the mid-1500s CE, tobacco had become the most profitable export from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies of the Americas, primarily Nicotiana tabacum.

The secret of their Nicotiana tabacum blend was closely guarded by the Spanish – it was against the law to share seeds or plants with non-Spaniards – but travelers or merchants would do so anyway. When England began to colonize North America in the late 16th century CE, Sir Walter Raleigh (l. c. 1552-1618 CE) introduced the older, rougher, strain of tobacco – N. rustica – to Britain. By this time (c. 1585 CE), tobacco had already become a popular, recreational drug in the country, but N. rustica was a much harsher smoke than the Spanish N. tabacum.

The English colony of Jamestown was established in 1607 CE and a hybrid of various strains of N. tabacum was brought and planted by the merchant John Rolfe (l. 1585-1622 CE) in 1610 CE. Rolfe's crop not only made him wealthy but saved the Jamestown Colony of Virginia and further popularized tobacco use in England, throughout Europe, and in the rest of the world. Tobacco plantations expanded throughout Virginia as Jamestown itself began to grow, taking more land from the Native Americans of the region, and this practice finally resulted in the Powhattan Wars (1610-1646 CE) which drove out most of the original inhabitants and made more room for even larger plantations.

The intense labor required for tobacco crops led to the increase in importing African slaves & enslaving Native Americans.

The decrease in the practice of indentured servitude after 1676 CE, and the intense labor required for tobacco crops, led to the increase in importing African slaves and enslaving Native Americans. As tobacco became more popular, and more commercial businesses were established for its cultivation and sale, more land and more slaves were required. The original use of tobacco by the natives was forgotten as the plant became the most lucrative cash crop of the Americas.

It continued to fuel the colonial economy, contributed to the unrest which resulted in the American War of Independence (1775-1783 CE), increased tensions in the country leading up to the American Civil War (1861-1865 CE), and was the cause of the Tobacco Wars of the early 20th century CE. In the modern era, tobacco has been recognized as the leading cause of preventable deaths but continues in use by people around the world as one of the most accepted and popular recreational drugs.

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Native American Uses & Colonization

Tobacco, along with the "three sisters" (beans, maize, and squash), potatoes, and tomatoes, was among the most significant crops cultivated by the natives prior to European colonization of the Americas. The plant was considered sacred and was frequently smoked or chewed as an appetite suppressant, a stimulant, for medicinal purposes, and to allow for communion with the spirit world. When Christopher Columbus (l. 1451-1506 CE), arrived in Cuba, the indigenous people offered him tobacco as a gift. Columbus seized on the plant and exported it to Spain where it found a large market.

Columbus instituted the feudal system of the encomienda which offered the natives protection from himself and his men, primarily, in return for labor. Tobacco became one of the main crops harvested on the large colonial plantations and, as demand for the plant grew in Europe, the Spanish overlords worked the natives harder. The Spanish priest Bartolomé de las Casas (l. 1484-1566 CE), who later witnessed the encomienda system first-hand, noted the brutality of the Spanish masters in his A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. After relating a number of atrocities the indigenous people suffered at the hands of the Spanish, he comments:

The Spanish had refined the original plant so that it smoked more easily and had a more pleasant taste, and this, of course, made it even more popular abroad. In 1561 CE, the French diplomat Jean Nicot de Villemain (l. 1530-1604 CE), who had been stationed in Lisbon, Portugal, returned to France with tobacco plants. He introduced tobacco to the French court as a medicine that could cure headaches and calm the nerves. Tobacco became an instant success at court, then in monasteries, and finally among the people in general. Nicot was rewarded by the French crown and his name was given to the active ingredient in tobacco, nicotine. The new market in France required greater efforts in production in the Americas. As tobacco became more profitable, more land was taken for production and more natives for forced labor.

Jamestown & John Rolfe

This same pattern would repeat itself in North America after Jamestown was established by the British in 1607 CE. Between 1607-1610 CE, Jamestown struggled, losing up to 80% of its population and, in 1609 CE, resorting to cannibalism just to survive. In 1610 CE, the merchant John Rolfe arrived along with Sir Thomas Gates (l. 1585-1622 CE) and Thomas West, Lord De La Warr (l. 1577-1618 CE) and reversed the colony's fortunes. De La Warr instituted a policy of conquest without compromise against the native Powhatan Confederation while Gates reformed both the colonists and their settlement. It was Rolfe, however, who saved the colony, expanded it, and provided justification for taking more Native American land when the tobacco seeds he had arrived with flourished and he became wealthy from the production and sale of Virginia tobacco.

Tobacco had already been cultivated in the regions around Virginia by the native Adena culture (c. 800 BCE - 1 CE), as evidenced by artifacts such as the Adena Pipe and others, and was continued by the Hopewell tradition (c. 100 BCE-500 CE), successors of the Adena, in modern-day West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana. The native Powhatans had inherited tobacco cultivation, but this was the N. rustica variety. Rolfe's blend was the smoother N. tabacum, but his skill with the plant made it more popular than Spanish tobacco. Scholar Iain Gately comments:

John Rolfe's experiment heralded a rapid and permanent change in the fortunes of England's colonial enterprise. Englishmen understood the value of tobacco and needed little persuasion to finance its cultivation. The London marketplace welcomed increasing shipments of Virginian weed. The tobacco crop of 1618 was 20,000 pounds. Four years later, despite an Indian attack that killed nearly one-third of Virginia's colonists, the settlement sent a crop of 60,000 pounds. By 1627, the shipment totaled 500,000 pounds, and two years later that tripled. (72)

Although De La Warr had pushed a policy of conquest, it had not proved successful, and after he returned to England Rolfe tried a different approach: alliance through marriage. In 1614 CE, he married Pocahontas (l. 1596-1617 CE), daughter of the Powhatan chief (referred to by the colonists as Chief Powhatan). It does not seem that Rolfe initially thought of his marriage as a political strategy – the couple were genuinely attracted to each other – but it served the purpose of uniting the natives and colonists for a few years and allowed for greater expansion of tobacco plantations.

Slavery & Tobacco

These farms were worked by indentured servants – people who, voluntarily or involuntarily, agreed to serve a master for seven years in return for passage to the New World and a land grant – but as the farms expanded, more labor was required than these servants could provide. Gately comments:

A solution appeared to Jamestown's labour problem in the form of a Dutch trading ship which dropped anchor in Chesapeake Bay in 1619. The colonists bought twenty African slaves who were set to work in the tobacco fields. The Dutch traders recognized a promising market and returned in subsequent years with more slaves for sale and slavery quickly became essential to the colony's economy. (73)

These early slaves seem to have been treated differently than those who were brought to the colony later. Scholar David A. Price notes:

Although it is tempting to assume that these first recorded Africans in English America were also the first slaves, there is evidence to suggest they were not. They may instead have had the legal position of indentured servants, like many of the white newcomers, eligible for freedom after completing a period of service. (197)

Part of the evidence Price references is the presence of free blacks in the colony prior to 1640 CE who had received land just as white indentured servants had. The year 1640 CE marks a turning point in the treatment of black servants as opposed to white servants in the case of the black indentured servant, John Punch. Punch objected to his treatment by his master and left his service, without fulfilling his contract, in the company of two other servants who were white. When the three were caught, the two white servants had their servitude extended by four years while Punch was sentenced to slavery for the rest of his life. Slavery was institutionalized in Virginia by 1661 CE and, although there were still free blacks in the colony, race now played a much larger part in community affairs and policies than it had previously.

Expansion & Economy

Slaves who worked tobacco plantations soon were regarded as more valuable because tobacco required more skill to harvest.

In 1676 CE, one of the interior landowners, Nathaniel Bacon (l. 1647-1676 CE) mounted a revolt (Bacon's Rebellion) against the governor William Berkeley (l. 1605-1677 CE), demanding better lands for farmers in the interior and the massacre or relocation of the Powhatans still in the area who would sometimes raid these farms. Berkeley refused Bacon's demands, and the insurrectionists then burned Jamestown. The rebellion fell apart when Bacon died of dysentery, but the authorities recognized the danger of continuing to award land grants to indentured servants who might then use their resources to fund revolt and so ended that policy.

From that point on, manual labor on the plantations would be taken care of by Africans purchased as slaves. Slaves who worked tobacco plantations soon were regarded as more valuable than those who worked in cotton or rice fields because tobacco required more skill to harvest. New slaves were apprenticed to older veterans of the fields to learn these skills and slave families were frequently separated when a skilled tobacco slave was kept but his or her family sold.

Tobacco & the Revolution

As the European demand for tobacco grew, more land was required for plantations and so, first, more Native Americans had to be removed from their tribal lands and, second, more Africans were needed as slaves. The colonies of Maryland and North Carolina became the next two greatest tobacco producers after Virginia, and by the early 1700s CE, all three were exporting thousands of pounds of tobacco to Europe every year. The British monarchy discouraged the production of cotton in the colonies owing to the economic policy of mercantilism (which balances exports over imports) so tobacco became the primary cash crop. Even though James I of England (r. 1603-1625 CE) objected to tobacco, he could not argue with the profits and settled for taxing tobacco instead of banning it.

The tobacco farmers stamped their product with seals to identify it, and certain plantations became known for better tobacco than others. Shipments of tobacco would arrive in London where they were handled by merchants, who would push one brand of tobacco for a higher price over others. These merchants also periodically depressed tobacco prices while still providing large loans to the colonial planters. The plantation owners, therefore, found themselves in the position of owing substantial debt they were unable to pay due to depressed London markets.

Civil & Tobacco Wars

Tobacco continued to inform the economy and policies of the United States into the 19th century CE. As the northern states became more industrialized, they required less slave labor, and many abolished the institution. The southern states, however, continued to rely on slaves for labor in the tobacco and cotton fields. Southern goods were frequently shipped to the north and were taxed but, the states felt, nothing of consequence was coming from the north to them as compensation; disagreements over equitable trade and the southern states' defense of slavery finally led to conflict.

Southern states broke with the union that had been formed after the Revolution, declaring themselves a separate entity, the Confederate States of America. Northern states responded by defining this action as rebellion and so the American Civil War (more properly known as the War Between the States) was begun. By the time the south was defeated in 1865 CE, slavery had been abolished, large plantations could no longer function as they once had, and former slaves now had to be paid a fair wage.

The southern states were able to get around the new model by instituting laws on vagrancy whereby someone (almost always a black man) newly arrived in town, who could not provide a legal address, was arrested and sentenced to work on a local plantation. Planters who were provided with these “workers” were able to produce more tobacco at less cost than others with more modest farms who paid their laborers. The farmers sold their product to a distributor who then marketed it to the public, and those with the cheapest labor grew rich enough to also manage distribution.

The biggest distributor in the 19th and early 20th centuries was American Tobacco Company founded by James Buchanan Duke (l. 1856-1925 CE) who had nothing to do with production and everything with sales. He acquired all rights to the new cigarette-rolling machine in 1881 CE which was able to produce 400 cigarettes a minute. Having lowered his costs, he cut his prices, forcing competitors out of business who then sold their companies to him, allowing Duke to form a monopoly on the market. He then offered lower compensation to farmers for their crops which eventually resulted in the Tobacco Wars (better known as the Black Patch Tobacco Wars) of 1904-1909 CE in the region of Black Patch, Tennessee, a collection of counties so-named for the dark smoke from the tobacco-curing process.

The wars were a series of conflicts between tobacco suppliers and distributors and a coalition of farmers calling itself the Planter's Protective Alliance which burned storehouses, farms, and warehouses and periodically hanged sharecroppers who worked on farms supplying Duke. The wars ended when the leaders were arrested in 1908-1909 CE and the American Tobacco Company was dismantled by the federal government in 1911 CE.


Cigarettes had been looked down upon as associated with the lower-class and poor while the pipe or cigar was the preferred method for smoking tobacco by the affluent. Mass production and mass marketing, however, changed that, and by World War I (1914-1918 CE) cigarettes were included in military rations and associated with patriotism. Tobacco use, by this time, had become common practice worldwide, even though some countries had tried to ban it, even going so far as to execute tobacco merchants and users.

In the present day, efforts by groups such as the American Cancer Society have proved somewhat more effective and health warnings or images of diseased lungs are required on tobacco products. Tobacco companies are also no longer allowed to advertise on television or in magazines, and health professionals continually stress smoking tobacco as a cause of lung cancer. Even so, people around the world continue to use tobacco in spite of decades of warnings on its dangers.

Recognizing the plant's popularity, some Native American groups are now trying a different approach to curb smoking: to revive the sacred nature of tobacco. Those involved in these efforts claim that they have seen a reduction in the number of smokers in their community who have come to recognize tobacco in its sacred form, carefully cultivated from the earth to final product, as it was over 400 years ago, and so now treat it, and themselves, with greater respect.

History of tobacco and health

Tobacco comes from plants that are native to the Americas around Peru and Ecuador,where it has been found since prehistoric times. It was brought back to Europe by early explorers where it was adopted by society and re-exported to the rest of the world as European colonization took place. Smoking tobacco in pipes of one sort or other gave way to handmade and then manufactured cigarettes, especially during the First World War. Smoking rates increased dramatically during the 20th century in developed countries until recently and rates are still increasing in underdeveloped countries. An epidemic of smoking-related diseases has followed the prevalence of smoking. Scientific knowledge of the harmful effects of active tobacco smoking has accumulated during the past 60 years since early descriptions of the increasing prevalence of lung cancer. The first epidemiological studies showing an association between smoking and lung cancer were published in 1950. In 1990 the US Surgeon General concluded that smoking was the most extensively documented cause of disease ever investigated but governments worldwide have been ambivalent and slow in taking action to reduce smoking. Tobacco smoking is now agreed to be a major cause of a vast number of diseases and other adverse effects. Since the 1980s passive smoking including exposure in utero has also been implicated as a significant cause of numerous diseases. In response, the tobacco industry has managed to forestall and prevent efforts to control this major health problem.

The Rise and Fall of Spittoons in the United States

Decorated Surinam porcelain spittoon. Note this type of spittoon has a spout hole on the side for emptying.

Spittoons, bowl-shaped vessels into which tobacco chewers spit, were widely used in public in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Even though cigarettes existed in the United States during the 19th century, they were not nearly as popular as chewing tobacco. In order to accommodate the excess saliva chewers expectorated, spittoons were placed in public buildings ranging from taverns to courtrooms, railroad cars, and used in private homes.

American Spittoon Usage in the 19th Century

From the days of the early settlers in 17th century Virginia, tobacco has been grown and marketed in the United States. As a result of the growing number of people who chewed tobacco, spittoons became a common sight during the 19th century. The number of spittoons in use reached its peak from 1880 to 1918. In fact, in 1880, the Boston Fire Department owned 260 spittoons. Spittoons were so common in public that their presence was one of the topics discussed at annual conferences of the United States Public Health Service.

Spittoons were designed to sit on a flat surface, most often on the floor. They were round and had a funnel-shaped covering. In theory, men were supposed to spit tobacco juice on to the funnel covering and it would go into the hole in the center. In reality, most of the time, the general direction of the spittoon was reached but the final destination ended up being on the floor.

Regulating Spittoons in Passenger Trains

By 1913, the use of spittoons was a topic of the 11th Annual Conference of State and Territorial Health Officers with the United States Public Health Service. Rupert Blue, Surgeon General, in his letter of March 13, 1913, announcing the date and location of the conference wrote, “Among the matters to come before the conference…sanitation of public conveyances.” At the conference, held on June 16, 1913, in Minneapolis, doctors and other health officials discussed whether there should or should not be spittoons in day coaches on trains. Some locations required porters on the trains to control or monitor the use of spittoons, “so that if people traveling have to expectorate they can have a spittoon.”

At the 13th annual Public Health Service Conference, held May 13, 1915, in Washington, D.C., the discussion about spittoons ranged from regulation to how usage influenced social customs and public health. The matter was referred to a committee on sanitation of public conveyances for written rules throughout all states and territories regarding consistency of size and number of spittoons used on public transportation.

The recommendation by the special committee was that spittoons should be cleaned frequently and that every smoking compartment would have at least two spittoons. When an entire car was used for smoking and chewing tobacco, the recommendation was for one spittoon every three seats. If the railroads wanted to offer more than the recommended number, that would be their option.

Dangers of Spittoons and the Spread of Tuberculosis

After the number of spittoons for smoking compartments and day smoking cars was agreed upon, concern was expressed regarding ease of access by passengers. Since the recommendation was to have one spittoon for every three seats in a day smoking car, then for people not seated next to a spittoon, they would have to spit over the seats and passengers to reach the nearest one. The conference then suggested changing the recommendation from one spittoon for every three seats to one for every two seats.

Having a day smoking car would take the spittoons out of the first class coaches. Ladies in first class would no longer have to pick up their skirts to step over the spittoons. The committee members pointed out that some spittoons were 6 or 8 inches high. They should not be in cars where they are not used.

Another reason why the conference wanted regulations for spittoons was to prevent lawsuits from potential accidents. Without regulating the placement and storage of spittoons, then if anyone, male or female, tripped and fell over a spittoon, they could potentially claim damages from the railroad.

Concern over the spread of tuberculosis put an end to the wide-spread use of spittoons. As part of the 1915 Public Health Service Conference, doctors stated that sputum was collected in Louisiana from people of various professions whether they were tobacco chewers or not. The findings showed that out of every 1,000 samples, 26 had tuberculosis.

Spittoons in Modern Times

Spittoons, also called cuspidores, are still in use in modern times but in limited ways. They are used for wine-tasting, and are the small porcelain sink next to a dentist’s chair. The floor of the U.S. Senate has spittoons as a symbol of a bygone era.

The poor aim around spittoons is depicted in a painting in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. This mural, A Social History of Missouri by Thomas Hart Benton, is located in the House Lounge and is a series of scenes from the early settlers to the cities during the 1930s. One scene shows a courtroom trial in progress and a spittoon on the floor surrounded by saliva made brown by tobacco.

A Brief History of Tobacco in the Americas - History

Prior to the mid-1990s some of the largest companies in the USA were in the tobacco industry. Despite some knowledge of the health risks which smoking caused, it wasn’t until states began to sue those businesses, and the industry hasn’t recovered since. Whilst smoking may be on its way out, tobacco use looks set to stay. What many don’t know is just how long tobacco products have been used in civilization, and today we are going to take a look at a brief history of tobacco and the products which have been used over the years.

There is documented use of tobacco from almost 8,000 years ago, and we have seen evidence of ancient civilizations using wild tobacco in many different ways. We know that the Native Americans gifted tobacco to Columbus upon his arrival, at which time it was considered as having healing and restorative powers. In terms of commercial use, rolled tobacco came from Europe to the US, and this is when we first saw widespread use of the product.

Commercial Cigarettes

In terms of cigarettes being sold ready-made, this didn’t actually happen until the beginning of the 20th century. As soon as the products went to market they were an instant success, and it is reported that over 3 billion cigarettes were sold in 1901 alone. Given this great appeal, more and more tobacco companies were created and began to sell various types of cigarettes to customers.

There is no doubt at all that tobacco companies throughout the 20th century were some of the richest on Earth. Given the amount of money available to these companies, competition amongst them was fierce, and this lead to a huge investment into marketing. It seems rather odd now, looking back at just how commonly you would find the name of a cigarette supplier in advertising. From sporting events to entertainment shows, magazine pages and billboards, cigarette brands were everywhere. Many actually suggest that the advancement of marketing has much to do with the sheer volume of money which the cigarette brands pumped into it.

As mentioned in the title, the bubble would eventually burst for these companies. Legal issues and worrying health concerns prompted the industry to be fined for huge sums, banned from advertising and gradually removed from culture. This may have been the end of the dizzying highs, but tobacco use still continues.

There are many products on the market such as snus and nicotine pouches which have also been used for centuries. These products have always been incredibly popular and there is no reason why this industry will not continue. When people think about tobacco they instantly consider cigarettes, but as that industry dies, we will once again see that tobacco still has a place in the world.

As you can see, tobacco, in terms of the use of the plant, has always been a key part of our society in the USA, and it looks set to remain that way.

The Science Behind the Brew

Even though people have been consuming food containing caffeine for centuries, the pure chemical was not identified and isolated until 1821. It is now known that caffeine speeds up the activity of neurons in the brain and causes the release of adrenaline, like other stimulants do. However, caffeine has another action that is less known, one that explains why caffeinated beverages keep people awake at night.

As it works, the brain makes a chemical by-product called adenosine. By the end of the day, adenosine levels in the brain are high. High levels signal to certain cells in the brain that it is time to feel fatigued. Thus, the accumulation of adenosine helps slow the body at the end of the day, preparing it for sleep. Caffeine interferes with this process by blocking the action of adenosine. As a result, cells do not get the signal that it is time to slow down and rest, so they keep working at their normal pace.

Adenosine buildup also signals blood vessels in the brain to dilate. Researchers believe that this dilation helps ensure that plenty of food and oxygen will be delivered to cells during sleep. However, when caffeine is present, the command to dilate does not get sent, so the vessels remain small and constricted.

Caffeine's ability to prevent the dilation of blood vessels in the brain makes it a useful treatment for vascular headaches. Painful vascular headaches are caused by enlarged blood vessels in the brain. Some people who suffer with this condition take prescription caffeine pills when their headaches begin, a strategy that reduces the size of the vessels and prevents the headaches from worsening.

Caffeine also mildly stimulates the nerves that regulate the size of bronchial tubes in the lungs. The stimulation causes these tubes to widen slightly, making it easier to breathe. Researchers are examining this property to see if it may give caffeine some value in treating the sick. For example, in the Harvard Commentary Health News, Dr. Robert Shmerling says, "Newborns, especially those who are premature or have undergone surgery just after birth, may be treated with caffeine to stimulate their breathing." 4

The History of Cigarettes

Cigarettes are small cylinders filled with tobacco leaves that have been finely cut along with a long list of other ingredients. These cut leaves are contained in paper. They are easily recognizable, partially due to both the positive and negative exposure that they have received over the years. In modern times cigarettes are mired in concerns about their safety for the smoker and the danger that second-hand smoke presents to those around them. The addictive nature of the nicotine that is found in tobacco also raises concerns, as does the various carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. However, in the fairly recent past, cigarettes used to be seen as symbols of glamour and had represented status and wealth. During that time smoking was a popular pastime and it was even encouraged. The tobacco found in cigarettes has had a long history in the United States, and even before the creation of cigarettes they were used by various indigenous people for a variety of religious or ceremonial purposes.

When learning about cigarettes it is necessary to begin by understanding the origin of the tobacco plant, which can be traced back as far as 6000 B.C. in Central America. By 1 B.C. the plant had spread throughout the Americas and it was commonly used by the Indigenous people in a number of different ways and for a number of different purposes. The natives found that they could chew the plant, smoke it in pipes, and even use tobacco enemas. This was done for religious, ceremonial and even medicinal purposes. When Columbus landed in the New World, he and his crew witnessed the Taino and Arawak people smoking the tobacco and were even given leaves. Members of his crew tried and enjoyed the experience and eventually took tobacco home with them. Although it originally unnerved some people to see smoke coming from the mouths and nostrils of people who smoked it, smoking quickly became popular and throughout the 1500s and 1600s began to spread through Europe. Although Europeans had begun to cultivate tobacco in Central America in the mid-1500s, it wasn't until 1612 that the first commercial crop of tobacco was grown in Virginia by John Rolfe. Tobacco crops at the time were so prosperous that they became key to economic growth. It was used as currency and would continue to be used in that manner for the following 200 years.

Cigarettes as well as cigars began to surface during the Civil War to fulfill the need for portable means of smoking. Because of the lack of slave labor following the War, the cigarette machine was invented to help create cigarettes and increase production. By 1913, despite an anti-cigarette campaign, the modern cigarette was introduced to society. This was the popular Camel brand of cigarettes and it was released by RJ Reynolds.

Around the late 1930s the initial link between cancer and smoking began to surface, with major reports on the topic released in the 50s. Despite these concerns, aggressive marketing campaigns resulted in an increase in the number of people who smoked during the 20th century, including women who were targeted by glamorizing the habit. This increase took place primarily between the early 1930s and the late 1970s. In fact, during World War I and World War II soldiers were even given rations of cigarettes. In 1964, however, the United States Surgeon General released a report that stated smoking caused men to develop lung cancer. As a result more attention began to focus on the negative effects of smoking and cigarette smoke.

In recent times, tobacco and cigarette companies have made efforts to be more responsible in their advertising methods. Laws have been created to ensure that people under a certain age do not have access to cigarettes, and there have even been efforts to create nicotine-free cigarettes and electric cigarettes. Despite the wide-spread knowledge of the dangers associated with smoking, however, many still continue to smoke today. In addition to lung cancer, smoking can cause birth defects, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and infertility. It causes approximately 443,000 deaths per year in the United States.

For more information on the history of smoking and tobacco, please read the following links.

History of the Surgeon General's Reports on Smoking and Health

On January 11, 1964, Luther L. Terry, M.D., Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, released the first report of the Surgeon General&rsquos Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.

On the basis of more than 7,000 articles relating to smoking and disease already available at that time in the biomedical literature, the Advisory Committee concluded that cigarette smoking is&mdash

  • A cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men
  • A probable cause of lung cancer in women
  • The most important cause of chronic bronchitis

The release of the report was the first in a series of steps, still being taken more than 40 years later, to diminish the impact of tobacco use on the health of the American people.

For several days, the report furnished newspaper headlines across the country and lead stories on television newscasts. Later it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.

During the more than 40 years that have elapsed since that report, individual citizens, private organizations, public agencies, and elected officials have pursued the Advisory Committee&rsquos call for &ldquoappropriate remedial action.&rdquo

Early on, the U.S. Congress adopted the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969. These laws&mdash

  • Required a health warning on cigarette packages
  • Banned cigarette advertising in the broadcasting media
  • Called for an annual report on the health consequences of smoking

In September 1965, the Public Health Service established a small unit called the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health.

Through the years, the Clearinghouse and its successor organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention&rsquos Office on Smoking and Health, have been responsible for 29 reports on the health consequences of smoking.

In close cooperation with voluntary health organizations, the Public Health Service has&mdash

  • Supported successful state and community programs to reduce tobacco use
  • Disseminated research findings related to tobacco use
  • Ensured the continued public visibility of antismoking messages

Within this evolving social milieu, the population has given up smoking in increasing numbers. Nearly half of all living adults who ever smoked have quit.

The antismoking campaign is a major public health success with few parallels in the history of public health. It is being accomplished despite the addictive nature of tobacco and the powerful economic forces promoting its use.

However, more than 45 million American adults still smoke, more than 8 million are living with a serious illness caused by smoking, and about 438,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of tobacco use.

Efforts to implement proven interventions must be continued and expanded.

This material was compiled by the Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated December 2006.

A brief history of cotton in America

The history of cotton in America began back in 1556 when it was cultivated by American settlers in Florida. Because cotton needed a warm climate, the southern states of America is the ideal place to plant and harvest it. Most of the cotton grown in the very early days of America was kept at home for use around the home for making those homespun cotton clothes.

In the 1730&rsquos England began to spin cotton and developed a textile industry. This industry grew rapidly but was dependant on manual labor for picking cotton and removing the seeds. This all changed when Eli Whitney invented the cotton Gin in 1793. This machine increases the speed of which cotton was separated from the seed by a factor of 10. It made it possible for the cotton industry in America to grow from an annual revenue of $150,000 to $8 million in the early 1800&rsquos.

As the availability of ready to spin cotton grew, so did the textile industry in England which America was happy to supply. By the 1800&rsquos cotton farms across the southern states grew and dominated the cotton industry in the world. As the importance of cotton and the industry that it developed grew, so did the need for workers in the fields.

The southern states after the Civil War were still a one crop industry. The difference is the people in the fields were being paid now. The production of US cotton was reduced. India was then deemed a natural place to grow this crop and today is the second largest exporter of cotton to the world.

The cotton industry was severely affected by the end of the Civil War. In 1892 it then had to deal with the devastating effects of the boll weevils that came up from Mexico. To this day there is still a boll weevil problem but it has been significantly reduced. The eradication of the boll weevil did not begin until the 1950&rsquos. By that time it had already costs the US cotton industry over $22 billion.

With the New Deal introduced by the US Government to help deal with this devastating pest, the south began to diversify its crops. This did help to bring economic growth to the southern states of America, but America would no longer be the largest producer of cotton in the world.

The statistics for the global cotton industry places China as the largest producer of cotton in the world with 33 million bales annually. India is second with 27 million bales. America is now the third largest producer of cotton with a total production in 2013 of 18 million bales. Pakistan places fourth on the list with a production of 10.3 million bales a year.

US cotton is still a major industry in America with over $100 billion dollars in revenue, but we are no longer the largest in the world. Despite that, the US cotton clothing industry is still strong and can supply the domestic and foreign markets with high quality cotton for years to come.

Cigar Aficionado

The year was 1992. The American cigar industry was in poor shape. The customer base was aging and contracting, sales had been in a steady 30-year decline and the men who made cigars and grew tobacco no longer encouraged their children to follow in their footsteps.

“I did not think that there was a future in the cigar industry,” said Carlos Toraño in 2006, speaking about the state of the cigar industry in the 1980s. His father, grandfather, cousins, uncles—just about everyone with the surname Toraño had worked with cigar tobacco, dating back to Cuba in 1916. But he was happy when his son Charlie chose a new career path, opting to become a lawyer instead of a tobacco man in August 1992.

American cigar consumption was spiraling to all-time lows, having dropped by more than 66 percent between the mid-1960s and early 1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Imports of premium, handmade cigars, which had hovered around the 100 million-unit mark throughout the 1980s, decreased by 2.6 percent between 1990 and 1991, to 103.6 million cigars.

“One of [my relatives] compared the cigar business to the buggy whip business,” wrote Stanford Newman about the U.S. cigar industry at that time in his autobiography Cigar Family. “A dying industry with no future.”

But Newman, and everyone else in the cigar industry, had no idea that the cigar boom was about to begin, and this centuries-old industry that has weathered all manner of challenges was about to be changed like never before.

We’ve all heard the tale of Columbus witnessing Cuba’s indigenous population twisting up tobacco leaves and enjoying a rustic smoke, and how the explorer brought the raw material back to Europe. Webster’s dates the origin of the word “cigar” back to 1730, from the Spanish cigarro, and what we think of as a cigar today—made of filler, binder and wrapper—appeared in the early eighteenth century, according to Tobacco in History and Culture. Spain developed quite the appetite for cigars, one that exceeded its ability to produce them, leading to Spanish investment in its then-colony of Cuba, where cigar production began in earnest.

The population of Havana boomed after the king of Spain declared free trade in 1818 in the country, which remained a Spanish colony until 1898. It was during that period that many of Cuba’s famous cigar brands were created. Punch was formed in 1840 by a German, the famous Partagás factory was built in 1845 by Spaniard Jaime Partagás, El Rey del Mundo and Sancho Panza were created by the German Emilio Ohmstedt in 1848 and Hoyo de Monterrey was founded in 1865 by José Gener, a young immigrant from Spain.

One hundred years ago, cigar smoking was quite common, and cigar factories seemed to be everywhere. “The cigar profession commanded a fair amount of prestige at the turn of the century. Cigars were arguably the most popular tobacco product in America,” wrote Stanford Newman. “Almost every city in the East and Midwest had at least one small cigar factory.” These factories were not necessarily large operations, and many were simply a person in a room rolling cigars.

Newman’s father, J. C., began rolling cigars in the barn behind his family’s Cleveland home in 1895, creating J. C. Newman Cigar Co., which still exists to this day. At the time, that facility was one of 300 cigar factories in Cleveland, and one of 42,000 in the entire United States.

Wherever they were rolled, all cigars were made entirely by hand until around 1920, when the first cigarmaking machines appeared, and they became more common after the Great Depression. In the meantime, cigarettes came on the scene, as they were included in the mess kits of G.I.s during the First World War, and began edging aside cigars in popularity. By the mid-1920s they had become the nation’s most popular form of tobacco.

Cigar sales were largely flat in the 1940s and early 1950s, and most of the cigars made in America (outside of Florida) were being made by machine. On the premium end of the cigar business, Americans had a great appreciation for Cuban tobacco, almost all of it rolled in Tampa, Florida, into cigars that were known as Clear Havanas. And they were inexpensive. Arturo Fuente sold a diminutive size known as a Breva for 10 cents apiece at the time. “Pre-embargo, most cigars in the United States that were considered premium were a quarter,” said longtime cigar industry veteran Sherwin Seltzer in a 1998 Cigar Insider interview. Imported Havanas, a small part of the business, cigars reserved for the extremely well-off, could be had for those willing to spend about 65 cents.

Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba in the late 1950s would forever change the world of cigars. In 1960, Castro seized control of Cuba’s cigar and tobacco industry, and his regime plucked the country’s cigar gems: it nationalized the Hoyo de Monterrey factory, home of Punch, Belinda and the Hoyo brand seized the H. Upmann factory from owners Menendez and Garcia, taking with it Cuba’s famous Montecristo and H. Upmann brands and grabbed the emblematic Partagás Factory from owner Ramón Cifuentes. “They came inside, and said, ‘We’re here to intervene the company,’ ” Cifuentes told Cigar Aficionado in an interview. “And they didn’t allow me to take anything.”

The nationalization of Cuba’s cigar industry led to the exile of many of its famed tobacco and cigar men, which led to the rise of the non-Cuban cigar industry. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed an embargo prohibiting nearly all trade between Cuba and the United States in 1962, it forced cigarmakers to reinvent their blends. Cuban leaf, the lifeblood of the cigar industry, was now off-limits to American smokers.

“When we got the embargo, we bought tobacco left and right by telephone,” said Alfons Mayer in 2002. Mayer, who died in 2006, spent years as the main tobacco buyer for General Cigar Co. “We were buying Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, people went to Brazil, we went all over Honduras, our native tobaccos here [in the United States], we used some Java, some air cured, we made blends, blends, blends. People went to different areas to try and grow tobacco. There was a lot of trial and error.”

Cuba’s exiled cigarmakers traveled far and wide searching for new places to roll. The Menendez family went to the Canary Islands to make cigars, and soon launched Montecruz, a copy of the Montecristo brand it had lost in Cuba. General Cigar turned to Jamaica, where cigarmaking had been a big business during the Second World War. General acquired the Temple Hall Factory in 1969, which included a then-unknown brand named Macanudo, destined to become the best-selling premium cigar in the United States for many years.

Many of Cuba’s exiled cigarmakers made deals with American cigar companies to license or sell their cigar brand names, resulting in non-Cuban versions of Partagás, Punch, H. Upmann, Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo and other cigars strictly sold in the United States. The landmark 1972 lawsuit Menendez v. Faber, Coe & Gregg established a legal precedent in which the rights of the owners to sell their non-Cuban versions were upheld by American law.

Tobacco seeds were brought around the world, and propagated in various countries. French tobacco monopoly SEITA established plantations in Cameroon in western Africa in the late 1950s. The rich, toothy wrapper became an industry favorite, and the Meerapfel family saved it from extinction after the French left Africa in the early 1960s. At that time tobacco pioneers had success planting Cuban seeds in Honduras. In 1967, Carlos Toraño Sr. brought Cuban seeds to the Dominican Republic, a nation just removed from civil war, and helped improve the quality of the country’s tobacco, which was mostly grown for cigarettes at the time.

With Dominican Republic cigars currently ubiquitous, it may be hard for a modern-day cigar lover to believe that 40 years ago the Dominican Republic made very few cigars for export. In the 1970s, most of the imported cigars enjoyed in the United States were rolled in the Canary Islands, Jamaica and Mexico, and America still made a large number of cigars. In the early 1970s, free-trade zones opened in the Dominican Republic. Conglomerate Gulf + Western, then the owner of Consolidated Cigar Corp., a company that later became Altadis U.S.A. Inc., began processing tobacco in La Romana in 1969 and started rolling cigars there in 1972.

In 1974 a free-trade zone opened in Santiago, and Manufactura de Tabacos S.A., known as MATASA, soon set up shop. Its owner, Manuel Quesada, explained in a 2004 interview in Cigar Aficionado: “In Miami, the cigarmakers that had come out of Cuba were getting older, and with the Social Security a lot of them had to be paid under the table and it started to become a hassle. The free zones had just started in the Dominican Republic. So it was a good idea to transfer production from Miami to the Dominican Republic.”

By the mid-1980s, the Dominican Republic was a hot spot for making cigars. In the 1990s, it became the center of the cigar universe.

Imports of premium, handmade cigars began to climb towards the end of 1992—soon after Cigar Aficionado magazine appeared in September of that year. The American cigar market was turned on its head, and would go through a period of unimaginable growth. Premium cigar imports rose by 3.7 percent in 1992, 9.7 percent in 1993, 12.4 percent in 1994, 33.1 percent in 1995 and soared 66.7 percent in 1996, to more than 293 million cigars. Between 1992 and 1996, the market for fine cigars nearly tripled.

“I went back to look at our financials dating back to 1992, and I will honestly tell you that, based on our sales increases beginning in 1993, I would have had no problem guessing the year [the magazine] started,” says John Oliva Sr., the head of Oliva Tobacco Co., one of the cigar world’s leading names in growing and brokering cigar tobacco. “It was, in my opinion, Cigar Aficionado that kick-started the boom.”

Once-sleepy smoke shops became jammed with customers. Incoming orders of cigars would sometimes be stacked in piles on the floor, never making it to the walk-in humidor. Kansas City retailer Curt Diebel, whose boom-time business doubled each month for a time, went as far as to install a secret spot in his humidor to hide his stock, in fear that new customers would walk in and buy everything he had. “I spent my time on the phone trying to convince the vendors to give me product,” says Diebel. “Then I had to allocate my product for my [regular] customers. We got tired of having strangers come in and saying ‘I’ll take all of them.’ ”

In Miami, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s La Gloria Cubana brand—heralded in the third issue of Cigar Aficionado with several 90-point scores for $2 cigars—suddenly had the hottest thing in the cigar world, and found himself completely submerged in new orders. His sales rocketed from 700,000 cigars in 1992 to 3.3 million in 1996, and then nearly doubled to 6.1 million the following year.

Antismoking regulations in the United States were still in their infancy during the cigar boom, and restaurateurs eagerly welcomed the cigar lovers. Cigar bars opened, cigar dinners flourished, and Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smokes brought cigar lovers out en masse.

Cigar shops expanded and new ones opened. As traditional cigar companies tried to expand their operations, newcomers flocked to the cigar industry, creating brand after brand after brand. People dug old cigars out of humidors (and basements) hoping to cash in at auction. The average price for a box of pre-embargo Cuban cigars sold at Christie’s soared from less than $500 in 1992 to nearly $2,500 in mid-1996.

Cigar lovers were not only buying more cigars, but they had radically changed their buying habits. Before 1992, said Robert Levin, retailer and owner of the Ashton brand, “people would be brand loyal, come in once a week for a box of cigars. Now they come in with the ratings, and they want to buy a bunch of different brands.” The sale of singles quickly replaced the box sale.

The most popular cigars of the early 1990s were often made of mild, Dominican filler, wrapped with mild leaves of Connecticut-shade. Cigarmakers, emboldened by the increased sales, made more flavorful blends. The late 1995 release of the Fuente Fuente OpusX helped spark a trend toward more powerful, spicy smokes. Cuban-seed tobaccos and Ecuadoran Sumatra wrappers became increasingly popular, and cigar smokers learned the term “ligero,” describing the strongest variety of filler tobacco. The 1994 release of the ultrarich Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series, made entirely with Cuban-seed tobaccos, ignited a trend toward box-pressed cigars, which had been almost entirely absent from the U.S. market.

As cigar sales grew, so did the girth (measured in ring gauge) of the most-popular smokes. One retailer said that in 1990, almost 80 percent of his sales came from the very slim lonsdales and coronas sizes. By 1996, most of his sales came from fat robustos and corona gordas. The first edition of Cigar Aficionado magazine rated 17 robustos, the fattest of which had a ring gauge of 52. The Diamond Crown brand, a line consisting entirely of 54-ring gauge cigars, made news in 1995 when it was launched—as 54s were considered quite thick in those days. Today, a ring gauge of 60 characterizes one of the most popular sizes in American smoke shops.

The effects of the cigar boom reached Cuba as well. Consumers flocked to Cuban cigar stores and bought every cigar they could find. On a trip to Havana in early 1996, the Cigar Aficionado editors visited nine cigar shops and couldn’t find a double corona, Montecristo No. 2 or Partagás Serie D No. 4. Cuba, which had produced fewer than 60 million export-quality cigars in 1993 and 1994, vastly increased its production. Cuban cigar exports reached 100 million units in 1997, and officials announced the long-term goal of increasing further to 200 million cigars by the year 2000.

In November 1996, Cuba launched the Cuaba brand, the first new brand from the island in nearly 30 years. That was soon followed by such creations as Vegas Robaina, Trinidad and San Cristobal de la Habana. Cuba opened new cigar factories and vastly increased plantings of tobacco. Alas, the mandate to pump out cigars at such a rate resulted in a rash of inferior product.

Wall Street soon took an interest in cigars, and six cigar companies went public in 1996. Newcomer Caribbean Cigar Co. became the first stand-alone public cigar company with its August 1, 1996 initial public offering. Sixteen days later, high-profile financier Ronald Perelman took his Consolidated Cigar Holdings public for $23 a share. Machine-made giant Swisher International Group Inc., the cigar retailers JR and Holts, and even a one-year-old company named Tamboril soon followed suit.

By 1995, more than 25 million cigars were on back order, and in 1996, that number was more than 50 million. Cigar brands such as Arturo Fuente and La Gloria Cubana became impossible to find. For six weeks of the summer of 1996, General Cigar didn’t ship a single Macanudo cigar, the best-selling premium cigar in the United States at the time. “We were using tobacco so rapidly we got caught. We didn’t have enough in the aging blend,” said then-company president Austin T. McNamara.
The influx of boom-time smokes often meant substandard product. The April 1997 Cigar Insider had ratings for 50 cigars and, for the first time since publication began in January 1996, not one scored 90 points or more. Low ratings abounded, with a trio of 83s and one of the most expensive cigars in the issue—a $6.25 effort from a Canary Islands brand called Goya—scored 82 points.

Newcomers arrived in droves, cash in tow, in Honduras, Nicaragua and especially the Dominican Republic, hoping to make a quick profit on the boom. New factories appeared across the Dominican Republic, hiring away talented cigarmakers. Some factories ran double shifts to keep up with demand, and it became a battle to find tobacco, cellophane, cedar boxes—everything used to make a premium cigar. Tobacco companies planted seeds in such unlikely places as Peru, Colombia, Panama, even Canada, and cigar factories opened in Indonesia, Ecuador and elsewhere. The once enemic industry tradeshow expanded from a few dozen booths to hundreds, and some enterprising attendees went so far as to sell their badges to those hoping to get inside. There were more than a few quirky market launches, among them cigar vending machines (created by two separate companies in 1997) and a line of cigars aimed at female cigar lovers called Cleopatra, which never quite got out of the planning stages.

Cigar sales had grown at an untenable pace. It was 1997 when the cigar industry started to catch up to the demand for cigars. The established companies began filling all the back orders for traditional cigar brands, a number that turned out to be inflated as cigar retailers had over-ordered through the boom, asking for 10 boxes, say, in hopes of receiving five. As the old-time brand names filled up the distribution chain, most of the newcomers found themselves in a pinch.

When the big-name brands caught up with demand, many of the cigars without pedigree no longer interested cigar lovers. By 1998, the discount retailers were buying up unwanted cigars from new manufacturers who suddenly found themselves without customers. Mark Goldman of House of Oxford Distributors set up a table in the Gran Almirante Hotel in Santiago in 1998 and bought cigars that had once retailed for $200 a box for as little as $7. “Basically, we’ve been buying cigars for less than it costs to make them,” he said at the time.

Imports dipped as the market struggled to absorb all the cigars that had been made in the dizzying, final days of the cigar boom, falling to 248.3 million cigars in 1999. At the same time, the Wall Street love affair with cigars came to an end. (The cigar industry is a long-term business, in which tobacco bought today might not be sold for two or more years—a poor match for the stock market, which seeks gains in every quarter.) Swisher bought back its stock in 1999, JR Cigar went private the following year and Holt’s followed suit in 2001.

Europe’s Tabacalera S.A. had bought heavily in the U.S. cigar industry, investing at the very peak of the market. The company spent more than $350 million on three deals, including an eye-popping $27 million on two Central American factories owned by Nestor Plasencia. When the market began to cool, the European influence grew. In 1999, France’s SEITA S.A. acquired Consolidated Cigar for $730 million. SEITA merged later that year with Tabacalera in a $3.3 billion deal that created Altadis, which then bought half of Cuba’s Habanos S.A., and was itself acquired by Imperial Tobacco PLC.
Altadis rival Swedish Match AB, which bought the La Gloria Cubana brand in 1997, acquired General Cigar in a two-part deal beginning in 1999.

With the cigar market undergoing radical change, the industry was remade. In 2000, General Cigar closed its Jamaica factory, ending some 30 years of history and putting an end to Jamaica’s era as a cigar-industry power (it had ranked third among major shippers in the early 1990s). Cigar shipments from Mexico, also once vibrant, have shrunk yearly, from 11 million in 1998 to fewer than 1 million last year. Nicaragua is the new star of the cigar world, with shipments growing continuously since 2003. The nation’s cigars, once embargoed in the U.S. market, have soared from 33 million in 2003 to 102 million last year, vaulting to second place among premium cigar producers. The shift is a sign of the changing tastes of
connoisseurs, who are flocking to the fuller flavors of Nicaraguan tobacco.

Cigar imports have since recovered from the post-boom years. In 2001, they began to climb again—albeit at a far slower rate— and between that year and 2011 imports have increased by an average of six percent annually, with more than 278 million cigars imported last year—approaching three times the size of the cigar market in 1992, on a unit basis.

Today, the myriad companies that make, market, distribute and retail cigars worry not about who will buy their cigars, but if the government will cripple the industry with over regulation and taxes. The possibility that the Food and Drug Administration will slap restrictions on the industry, increasingly higher taxes and fewer and fewer cigar-friendly venues are the worries of the moment, and some fear that the government could ruin the cigar business.

But the legacy of the cigar boom can be seen in the heir apparents to some of the world’s most famous cigar brands.
Children of cigarmakers, who had nearly forsaken their birthrights in the industry, were once again emboldened to join their parents. Today the cigar business is rich with father/son, father/daughter, brother/brother and brother/sister teams, including the Fuentes, Padróns, Quesadas, Eiroas, Garcias, Patels, Levins, Kelners, Newmans, Plasencias, Turrents, two Oliva families (one growing leaf, one making cigars) and many more. Charlie Toraño abandoned his law practice and joined his father in 1996, and today is president of the company, becoming the fourth generation in his family in the tobacco business.

Today Quesada proudly sits at the helm of MATASA, albeit in a new, far larger and more modern cigar factory, with his two daughters, Raquel and Patricia, taking an increasingly active role in the company, along with a number of nephews, nieces and cousins. They make blends using leaves that weren’t grown in the 1980s, package the cigars in vibrant boxes with modern logos and use their Blackberries to tweet about the products to cigar lovers around the world.

Twenty years ago, cigarmakers toiled in obscurity in a business that few felt had any future. “Nobody knew who was behind the products,” says retailer Gary Pesh. Today, cigarmakers are stars, similar to celebrity chefs. And while cigar sales today aren’t nearly as vibrant as they were during the peak of the boom, the cigar market is far larger today than it was before the boom. Premium cigar imports in 2011 (the last full year available) were 278.5 million cigars, well more than two-and-a-half times their level in 1991, when only 103.6 million cigars were imported.

While the market for cigars is far larger on a unit scale, the impact of the past 20 years is far more pronounced when you look at the overall value of the market. The average price for a premium cigar in 1990 was $1.75, according to Cigar Insider estimates, giving the U.S. premium cigar industry a market value of $186 million. The average price of a cigar rose to $3.23 by 1996, giving the market a value of close to $1 billion.

Today, cigar prices have pushed even higher. While there are bargains to be found, most lie in the $5 to $7 range. Many cigars sell for around $10, and special cigars push the upper limits of premium cigar pricing to $25, $30 and more per cigar.
The average retail price of a premium cigar rated by either Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Insider in 2012 is $9.51. At that average price, the U.S. premium cigar market would have a value of $2.6 billion—14 times the value of the annual market in 1990.

The cigar world has been completely, unforgettably transformed. Cigarmakers work alongside their sons and daughters, and no one who makes a cigar in 2012 worries that consumers down the road will lose interest in their product.

“Thank God for the cigar boom,” says Carlos Fuente Jr., one of the icons of the cigar business. “For the first time in history, tobacco farmers, tobacco dealers, people who own smoke shops were all able to make a decent living.”


This article was supported in part by a grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute and by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the American Legacy Foundation.

Parts of this essay appear in different form in my book The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America (New York: Basic Books, 2007).

I am grateful to participants of the November 2009 Drug, Alcohol, Food, and Tobacco Symposium for their insightful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Watch the video: The Surprising History of Tobacco


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