Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 4

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Page 28 of 87

tobaccoasia 29 19th century cigar box lid 10th century Mayan cup Christopher Columbus arriving in the New World Quetzalcoatl used in some Flor de Selva imagery Indian smoking Mayan mural Britain after Sir Water Raleigh's travels to the Americas: he is credited with taking the first "Virginia" tobacco to Europe in 1578, referring to it as "tobah". Catherine de Medici in France is said to have been a fan, as was Elizabeth I of England, who was introduced to smoking by Sir Walter Raleigh. The French and English apparently preferred snuff and clay pipes to cigars at the time, and in the early 1600s, there were about 7,000 tobacconists in London. Around 1592, the Spanish galleon San Clemente brought 50 kilos of tobacco seed to the Philippines, cultivated by the Spanish missionaries going there from Mexico, and the growing of tobacco as- sumed the proportions of an industry in 1781, when Governor-General Vasco de- creed that the government should have control of the production, manufacture, and sale of this product. In 1614, the Spanish had already de- cided to control the trade and ordered that all tobacco entering Europe and coming from their New World colonies must arrive in Seville and be taxed. France and Eng- land passed similar laws and in reaction the British began planting their own tobacco in their North American colony Virginia. By 1619, it was Virginia's largest export, and tobacco farming became one of the most important economic pillars in the colonies that would become the United States. The increasing demand for tobacco in Europe led to an increased slave trade, as tobacco requires lots of land and involves very hard work. In 1518, Charles I of Spain had agreed to ship slaves directly from Africa and the trans-Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when very large number of slaves were captured in West Af- rica. An estimated 12 million Africans arrived in the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries. So far, the Spanish produced their cigars in Spain, in Seville, where the tobacco was arriving from their colonies. During the 1700s, the Spanish realized that cigars travelled better than tobacco and they began rolling the cigars closer to the production areas; the focus on cigar production shifted to Cuba. In 1820, cigar production began in Britain and the parliament started regulating the industry. Tax was adopted on foreign-made cigars, which only increased their image as luxury products. By the 1850s, estimates show that the US alone consumed 300 million cigars annually. Cigars' popularity continued throughout the 20th century and became an icon in the hands of aficionados such as Sigmund Freud (who lived until 84 years old and used to smoke 20 cigars a day), and Mark Twain (who lived until 75 years old and used to smoke 20-40 cigars a day), as well as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Fidel Castro. Cigars saw a dip in consumption in 1960's with the publication of the American surgeon general's report on its effects on health but saw an impressive come-back in the 1990s as part of a lifestyle which many famous faces promoted. We seem to have come a long way from when the Mayas used tobacco to com- municate with their gods but actually all the Indian tribes' chamans, from Mexico to Columbia, still use tobacco as a sacred leaf. Whether we light up a cigar to reward ourselves after a long day at work or just as an established relaxing routine, we hold history in our hands… and a part of us might very well be speaking with the gods as well… To place below Mark Twain's drawing: "Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man's enjoyment of his cigar." Mark Twain

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