Aztec fresco Tobacco in Culture
Old Mexican clay pipe

Cartoon with smoke everywhereThe tobacco plant has captivated the imaginations of artists, poets, craftsmen, and musicians at least as long as history has recorded its existence. Early Aztec frescos in Mexico illustrated ancient myths in which gods bequeathed tobacco to mortals. Rituals involving tobacco were sacred to ancient peoples throughout the Americas, and their instruments of ceremony were lovingly crafted. Josť de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary dispatched to Peru in 1571, recorded some of the earliest and most vivid descriptions of Native South American life European readers had yet seen. De natura novi orbis libri duo (Salamanca, 1588-1589) was followed by a more illustrious work, Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590) in which the native use of tobacco was described in detail. This popular work was published in Spanish and quickly translated into Italian, French, Dutch, German, Latin and English, thus augmenting a budding European taste for the new plant and its attendant rituals.

 

Iosephi Acosta, Societatis Iesv, De natvra novi orbis libri dvo. Et de promvlgatione evangelii apvd barbaros, siue, De procvranda Indorvm salute, libri sex.  Coloniae Agrippinae, in officina Birckmannica, sumptibus Arnoldi Mylij, 1596
Book titled "Higiene Fumador" Pipes and various instruments used for smoking from different countriesOnce Spanish and English explorers introduced their countrymen to the new plant, the use of tobacco became vogue in sixteenth-century Europe. Social conventions of smoking tobacco and "taking" snuff soon inspired beautifully designed pipes and snuff boxes. Interest in the smoking practices of other cultures spread as Europeans traversed the globe, and these were noted and incorporated into the burgeoning culture of tobacco. Tobacco was most likely introduced to Africa by Portugese slave traders in the 16th century via Brazil. William Finch, an English trader with the Dutch East India Company, observed that the denizons of Sierra Leone, men and women, not only smoked but also cultivated tobacco in plots around their homes. Enlivened trade with India in this period acquainted the European explorers with the water pipe, which was used to smoke a blend of tobacco mixed with fragrant herbs such as rose and sandalwood. Books titled "Tobacco in Song and Story" and "Tobacco: It's Use and Abuse"
Book titled "Over His Cigar

Tobacco has been the target of Pages from "The Philosophy of Smoking"temperance movements as long as it has been championed by its proponents. Many early chroniclers of tobacco use noted that it had many medicinal functions on the American continents. But repeated habitual indulgence in tobacco products proved to be harmful to people and curative claims ceased. Stories, songs, and works of art have continued to document and celebrate or condemn tobacco ever since.