Smoking is a deadly yet interesting addiction. Its first discovered use was when Christopher Columbus sent a reconnaissance team inland to Cuba. There they discovered 'men with half-burned wood in their hands'. This was tobacco. Recreational use of the drug spread quickly to the Spaniards due to its addictive properties which were soon documented. That's right: Tobacco was known to be highly addictive shortly after its discovery (by Europeans) in the 1500s. Soon, returning explorers brought tobacco and the smoking vice back to Europe. In particular, Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco to England. In Europe this new 'herb' was thought to have medicinal properties. In the extreme, it was thought that a tobacco smoke enema was an efficient way of receiving tobacco's supposed medicinal benefits. Hence the term: "blowing smoke up.'"
One powerful opponent to tobacco was none the less than King James I (yes, the same King James who commissioned the authoritative King James Bible). He denounced tobacco use as "[a] custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs,…. Yet despite this royal denunciation, tobacco use spread. It eventually became a major cash crop and trading commodity.
Back in the colonies, land owners responded to the demand for tobacco. A successful tobacco crop was as good as gold, and was used as a monetary substitute. Feeding this demand was not just smokers. It was the popular and growing habit of chewing tobacco. So, tobacco use has gone from one end to the other.
In the 1930s, smoking was associated with the upper-class. During those hard economic times, who else could afford such a frivolous vice ? Advertising and the general prosperity of the post WWII changed that. Many returning GI's acquired the addiction from government issued cigarettes, and brought their addictions home with them. Most notably, slick advertising directed at women implied the message that women can smoke and vote just like men. This made smoking acceptable and seemingly sophisticated to the middle class. Along with this, the movies and television glamorized smoking, drawing more and more addicts into their grasp. Of course, with a steady stream of new addicts, the tobacco companies made enormous profits. (Good for them. A fool and his money are soon parted). Finally, as tobacco induced health damages became a national issue, middle class smokers began to eschew tobacco and many kicked their addictions. As smoking became socially unacceptable, the lower classes had already begun to fill the void. So, in less than a century, tobacco smoking went from being a vice of the upper class, to a vice of the middle class, to finally a vice of the lower class. Will it now be finally extinguished ? Or will it arise again in some new social construct ?
Why should we care if other people choose to smoke ? After all, it is their money and their health. Were it not for the creeping socialism that has overtaken much of our freedom, it would make little difference. On one hand, a shortened life span means less drain on our so called Social Security. On the other hand, chronic diseases (cancer, emphysema, heart disease) mean more drain on our Medicare funds. By my calculations, smoking is a net loss for society as well as individuals. The Medicare costs far outweigh Social Security savings. In reality, both are bankrupt, both are Ponzi schemes, and both are frauds – so, further analysis is futile.
In the future, I expect smoking and smokers will continue to be ostracized. Smoking is already forbidden in most public places. In the winter you can see them outside shivering just to get their fix. The addiction is real. It is just as real now as it was centuries ago.