The smoking of tobacco became prevalent early in this century. The production of flue-cured tobacco, the development of cigarette rolling machines, and a public health concern over tuberculosis germs being spread through the cuspidors associated with snuff and chewing tobacco, all contributed to an increase in cigarette smoking.
As smoking became more common, health problems emerged which seemed to be related to smoking. In the 1950’s, sir Richard Doll, a British researcher, studied the smoking habits of more than 34,000 physicians and found a strong correlation between smoking and disease. Throughout the 1950’s, research data on the effects of tobacco on human health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.” Since then, each Surgeon General has spoken out against smoking; the current Surgeon General proclaims smoking to be the number one preventable cause of disease and death. Medical science is in general agreement that use of tobacco endangers one’s health.
Lung Cancer was the first health effect to be linked to smoking. Subsequent research has linked tobacco usage to heart disease, emphysema, and several other forms of cancer. Recent research has even suggested harmful effects to unborn children of smokers and to those non-smokers exposed to the side-smoke of smokers.
One of the benefits of a free society is the freedom of choice for adults, so long as this freedom does not deprive other persons of their freedom The decision to smoke might appear to be one of those choices, since it is usually through that the health risks of smoking are borne largely by the individuals making the choice.
Factors that complicate the simplicity of this argument are: 1) Smoking is a social custom and when one person smokes, other persons in the area are exposed to the smoke. 2) Adult smoking habits provide a powerful modeling which affects the habits of children and youth. 3) Society must bear some of the social cost (increased insurance premiums and various tax burdens) of death and disability brought about by the use of tobacco. The tobacco plant is believed to have originated in the Western Hemisphere. The cultivated species most often grown for North American and European tobacco products is Nicotiana tabacum. The leaves of the plant are prepared for smoking, chewing, or sniffing. In addition nicotine tobacco contains over 19 known carcinogens (most collectively known as “tar”) and more than 2,000 chemicals.
Prior to European influence in the Americas, tobacco was used by the Indians of Mexico and Peru for ceremonies, medicinal purposes, and to alleviate Error! Bookmark not defined. pangs during famines. Columbus is credited with introducing tobacco into Europe. Tobacco use became widely accepted by the Portuguese, Spanish, French, British, and Scandinavians. Explorers and sailors who became dependent upon tobacco began planting seeds at their ports of call, introducing the product into other parts of Europe and Asia.