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Chapter 14: Past Attacks on Smoking

A common misconception is that the war on smoking we are currently experiencing is a result of the scientific discovery that smoking is harmful, and that it is done to protect the health of the people.  What people are not aware of, though, is that this is not the first time in history smoking has been targeted.  I mentioned in chapter 5 how the Nazis banned smoking and tried linking it to cancer, but this was not the first attack either.

Ever since smoking was introduced there have been people who despise it. There have been those who dislike the smell, or find second-hand smoke irritating.  There are those who believe that inhaling smoke must be harmful and thus hate it, and there are those who simply hate it for no real reason.  Truth be told, there have been people who hated smoking from day one.  Christopher Columbus himself was one such person. When he and his crew, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, reached Cuba in 1492, his crew tried smoking the pipe whilst Columbus spoke against it, even referring to his crew as descending to the level of “savages” and wrote that ““it was not within their power to refrain from indulging in the habit.”  It was his crew, de Jerez and de Torres, who put tobacco on their boat to take to Europe, thus introducing it to the Europeans for the first time.  Instantly, people hated it just as much as others loved it, and the Catholic Church considered it ungodly and heretical as it was a plant of the godless ‘Red Indians’.

The 1600s were a time of smoking regulation.  In Russia, first-time offenders were whipped, had their noses slit, and were sent to Siberia.  Second-time offenders were executed.  In Turkey, under the rule of Sultan Murad IV, smokers were castrated for their habit and up to 18 smokers a day were being executed.  China also killed smokers, by decapitation.

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