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10 Things You Didn't Know About the History of Smoking

Smoking changed quickly from miracle cure to common affliction.

Historians seem to agree that the first tobacco was smoked in England sometime around 1560. It was a miracle cure! Then it was a pastime for the rich. By Sir Walter Raleigh's death in 1618, smoking had become pervasive at all levels of society.

The practice crept in under the protection and prescription of the shamans of the New World. It was a cure for just about anything. The problem was, once cured, you just couldn't stop smoking.

That fact didn't show up in the first report to Raleigh on the natural crops of the Virginia colony. Thomas Hariot, author of the report, says of smokers that "their bodies are noticeably preserved in health, and know not many grievous diseases wherewithall we in England sometimes are afflicted."

Interestingly, these claims were greeted with euphoria and skepticism from the outset. But no one could take away from the idea that the practice was exotic and very fashionable. The social appeal only added to the addiction.

Historians torment themselves over defining the point at which smoking shifted from medical practice to daily habit in Europe. Of course, doctors will tell you it happens at the point at which you first try it, for whatever reason.