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How Did King James I Describe Smoking Tobacco?

Smoking tobacco was a symbol of social status in earlier times. As it was expensive, only the elite could afford it. At the time, its adverse effects were not yet discovered. But King James didn’t like the practice, even writing how he described it.

King James, I wrote “A Counterblaste to Tobacco.” He described it as loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs despite lacking significant scientific findings.

The European Introduction to Tobacco

Tobacco was first used by Native Americans who cultivated the plant. It was initially utilized for medicinal purposes as well as rituals. The first European who learned of its existence was Christopher Columbus. It was given to him as a gift by American Indians in 1492.

Columbus brought home a few tobacco leaves and some seeds as he returned to Europe, but its widespread use began during the mid-sixteenth century. European adventurers and diplomats started its general use. The Frenchman Jean Nicot was often credited for popularizing Tobacco, which is why nicotine was named after him. Nicot introduced tobacco usage in France in 1556. Two years later, Tobacco found its way to Portugal, a year to Spain, and eventually to England some years after.

Europeans began cultivating the plant in Central America. Eventually, they tried growing the plant in Europe around 1558 but were unsuccessful. By 1612, an Englishman named John Rolfe successfully cultivated the commercial crop of Tobacco in Virginia. (Source: CNN)

Tobacco Usage in the 1500s

Sir Walter Raleigh was credited to be the first European who introduced Tobacco to England. In 1586, Raleigh returned home with some colonists from the settlement on Roanoke Island. These colonists brought with them Tobacco, maize, and potatoes.

At this time, the sight of colonists puffing away on their tobacco pipes started a craze amongst the English folks. Historians also recorded that Raleigh once offered Tobacco to Queen Elizabeth I, asking her to try smoking it. The public followed suit and tobacco smoking became a craze at the time. (Source: Historic UK)

King James’ Take on Tobacco Smoking

Despite its popularity, King James I hated Tobacco and its aspects. He specifically did not like that people thought it had alleged medicinal and curing properties. James hated its whole idea and the person who introduced it to the country, Sir Walter Raleigh. (Source: Longstreet Typepad)

Custome lothesome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black and stinking thereof, nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.

King James I

The king felt that smoking was the devil’s work, and to persuade the crowd to give up this vice, he imposed an import tax on Tobacco. The king set 6 shillings and 10 pence per pound imported. The king also utilized the Catholic church, which the church declared its usage sinful. It also banned Tobacco from holy places.

But despite the king’s efforts, tobacco consumption continued to grow. In 1610, Sir Francis Bacon noted that tobacco usage continued to grow. He also wrote that it was a difficult habit to quit. (Source: Historic UK)

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