What is Tobacco?
Tobacco is a plant, related to the eggplant family. It is planted in order to harvest its leaves for the production of cigarettes, cigars, snuff (sneezewort) and quid. Tobacco is an annual plant and only lives for one season. The height of plant ranges between 1.2 and 1.8 meters and one sapling produces about 20 leaves, each of 60 – 75 cm in length and 35 – 45 cm in width.
The scientific name of tobacco is Nicotiana, and is where we get the name of nicotine from. Botanist Carl Linius of Sweden named the plant in honor of Jan Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, who sent the tobacco plant to the palace of Catherine De Midichi in 1559 for use as medicine.
The History and Development of Tobacco
The origin of tobacco growing goes back to the American continent, where the aboriginal inhabitants used it in religious ceremonies and as a pain killer. Following Christopher Columbus' discovery of America, sailors brought tobacco with them when they returned to Europe. The use of tobacco spread due to European belief that it could be used to heal a variety of diseases.
By 1600, tobacco was a sought-after product and was even used as a form of currency in some parts of Europe. In the 19th Century, the French designed the first tobacco paper, creating the first cigarette. With the creation of the cigarette, the spread of tobacco was assured as companies began marketing and selling cigarettes to the general population.
Tobacco in the East
By the late 16th Century the Ottoman Empire was home to tobacco trading due to its reputed medicinal properties and as smoking became increasingly popular. Tobacco trading went through various stages under the Ottomans, it was prohibited in 1633 by Sultan Murad the Fourth and users were sentenced to death, following his death, Murad's successor Sultan Ibrahim allowed legalized it, but imposed taxes on its trade, causing it to spread throughout the region.
Distribution of Tobacco Planting in Lebanon