The Origin and Development of Cigarettes


Half the world is drowned in the sheer joy that is cigarettes and most of them still don’t know how and where it started. And who am I to say anything, I only recently found out because someone I knew asked me if I knew when the ‘death stick’ was invented and why was it called a cigarette, instead of ‘baton de mort’. So, I dug up a little, and here’s what I found.


Why is it called a cigarette?

Well, the origin of the word is pretty unclear. No matter how many etymology contexts I try to study, I always turn up on the one answer that says, that it is POSSIBLE that the word “cigarette” has come from a Mayan word “SIYAR” which means to “smoke tobacco leaves”. The “Siyar” turned to “cicada” which turned into “cigar”.

How was the first cigarette made?

The most basic forms of cigarettes were comparable to their precursor, the cigar. From what I have read up, I think it is safe to say that the beginners of smoking leaves of any kind were the Mexicans and the Central Americans around the 9th century. They made some kind of rudimentary tubes through which they would smoke reeds and weeds (no pun intended). We can also gauge that the Mayan and the Aztec people had rituals that involved smoking psychoanalytical drugs in addition to other forms of tobacco. Many art findings depict their deities smoking. You can find them on many of their temple engravings. Even the movie “Apocalypto” shows in a scene, some form of smoking going on (I am not saying that is a reliable source of information but it would be wrong not to mention something so apparent).

How were cigarettes smoked?

So, I began researching, is that initially, people would not inhale their smoke. Wow, that’s weird! The first time someone really addressed this was when the sexy Lucky Strikes print ad campaign came forth which read, “Do You Inhale?” in the 1930s. If we put it in context of the time and the usage, it becomes less shocking, really. The initial days of cigarette had harsh strong tobacco in it. This meant that it would’ve been practically impossible to inhale the smoke from it. IT has become a lot milder and subtler than its predecessors. Which is why inhaling the smoke becomes more acceptable or even possible.

When did smoking become so popular?

It doesn’t come as a surprise that smoking caught fire pretty quickly. Also, stress is the most important factor that triggers any kind of addiction. With smoking as an available resort to temporarily make the brain ‘fly’, the western world of the 20th century grabbed it with both hands. Right at the outset, it is argued that the per capita annual consumption in the USA was 54 cigarettes. (with less than 0.5% of the population smoking more than 100 cigarettes per year) which shot up to a whopping 4,259 per capita in 1965. Jeez, these numbers made my head spin for a while.

I think I need to light one! But it did come down. So, from a 50% men and 30% women ratio, it dropped to 30% men and 22% women ration in the year 2000. Because the per capita reduced to about 2029. It is still seeing some downward trend. I don’t know how credible these numbers are but they sure don’t sound right!

When was a relation between cancer and smoking detected?

I curse that day when the German doctors identified a connection between smoking and cancer. That is what really gave birth to the anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany. But the government of every nation has been sensitive towards the need of getting a little nicotine kick during high stress and high-pressure situations. Also, during the Vietnam War cigarettes were a part of the C-ration meals of the soldiers. But the damper was put when the U.S government finally decided to stop including them in the ration of their troops in the year 1975. The cigarette companies forced to put a text warning on the packs.

So, that’s some that I got from the internet and a couple of books about smoking and its origin. I’ll write soon to brief you more about its development.

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