Smoking can be dated to as early as 5000 BC, and has been recorded in many different cultures across the world. Many ancient civilizations, such as the Babylonians, Indians and Chinese, burnt incense as a part of religious rituals. The Israelites and the later Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches also practiced this as part of religious worship.
Early smoking evolved in association with religious ceremonies- as offerings to deities, in cleansing rituals or to allow shamans and priests to alter their minds for purposes of divination or spiritual enlightenment. After the European exploration and conquest of the Americas, the practice of smoking tobacco quickly spread to the rest of the world. In regions like India and Sub-Saharan Africa, it merged with existing practices of smoking (mostly of cannabis).
The use of substances such as Cannabis, clarified butter (ghee), fish offal, dried snake skins and various pastes molded around incense sticks dates back at least 2000 years. Cannabis smoking was common in the Middle East before the arrival of tobacco, and was a common social activity that centered around the type of water pipe called a hookah.
In 1612, six years after the settlement of Jamestown, John Rolfe was credited as the first settler to successfully raise tobacco as a cash crop. The demand quickly grew as tobacco, referred to as “golden weed”, revived the Virginia joint stock company from its failed gold expeditions. In the 19th century, the practice of smoking opium became common. Previously it had only been eaten, and then primarily for its medical properties.
Beginning in the late 1870s, cigarette companies were able to advertise their brands through the invention of color printing. This brought about a new era for both advertising and packaging – including the placement of trading cards in individual boxes. As far back as the early 1950s, cigarette advertising began to attract controversy, yet tobacco companies continued to pour money into their marketing efforts. When people began to express uncertainty about the health effects of smoking in the early 20th century, tobacco companies responded with a campaign to reassure the public about their products.
US Surgeon General Luther Terry’s 1964 Advisory Committee report on Smoking and Health brought about significant changes for the tobacco industry, leading to far tighter restrictions on advertising as well as the addition of warning labels on packaging.