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|Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents|
National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
History of Tobacco Regulation*
REGULATION OF CONSUMPTION
Even as far back as the 16th century, smoking was considered to have medicinal value. Juan de Cardenas, a Spanish physician who lived in Mexico in the late 1500's, wrote that "Soldiers subject to privations, kept off cold, hunger, thirst by smoking and all the inhabitants of the hot countries of the Indies alleviate their discomforts by the smoke of this blessed and medicinal weed" (Wagner, 1971: 63-64).
During, the recurrent epidemics of plague in the 17th century, it was widely believed that smokers were spared; it has been reported that men who attended the sick and accompanied the dead kept their pipes lit (Wagner, 1971: 63-64).
In 1614, one Scottish doctor praised the tobacco plant which:
Prepareth the stomach for meat; it maketh a clear voice: it maketh a sweet breath .
. . in a few words it is the princess of physical plants (Gottsegen, 1940: 87).
King James disagreed strenuously, and in 1604 ordered a substantial increase in the import duty on the leaf. Smoking, he wrote in "A Counterblaste to Tobacco", is:
A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless (Brooks, 1952:56, 71).
Another more passionate moralist wrote:
. . . imagine thou beheldest here a firme-sucker's wife most fearfully fuming forth
very fountains of blood, howling for anguish of heart, weeping, wailing, and wringing her
hands together . . . while she _pitifully pleads with her husband thus: Oh husband, my
husband . . . ! Why dost thou so vainly prefer a vanishing filthy fume before my permanent
virtues? (Brooks, 1952: 72).
Notwithstanding such alliterative literature, the habit of smoking increased in popularity, particularly in the colonies. A French visitor observed in 1686 that:
Large quantities of it [tobacco] are used in this country, besides what they sell.
Everyone smokes while working and idling. I sometimes went to hear the sermon; their
churches are in the woods, and when everyone has arrived the minister and all the others
smoke before going in. The preaching over, they do the same thing before parting. They
have seats for that purpose. It was here I saw that everybody smokes, men, women, girls
and boys from the age of seven years (Robert, 1949: 99).
It was said that even in New England, women of the colony "smoke in bed, smoke as they knead their bread, smoke whilst they're cooking" (Gottsegen, 1940: 147).
In the tobacco colonies, of course, there was no attempt to restrict Consumption of tobacco. It was, after all, their economic mainstay.
Officials in the northern colonies were less enthusiastic about the habit, however. In 1632, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay took the initiative and forbade smoking in public tinder penalty of a fine (Tobacco Institute, Massachusetts, 1971 : 17). In 1638, the proscription was expanded to prohibit anyone from smoking in any inn or public house except in his own room "so as neither the master of the house nor any of the guests there shall take offense thereat which if they do, then such person is forthwith to forebear upon paying of two shillings sixpence fine for every offense" (Werner, 1922: 100).
This law was followed by another in 1646 which prohibited smoking except on a journey
of five miles or more from any town. Nor could a citizen of the colony bring a pipe or
tobacco into the precincts of the court (Werner, 1922: 100), although he might smoke at
"the ordinary tyme of repast comonly called dynner" (Heimann, 1960: 83).
Plymouth colony was similarly strict. In 1638, a law was passed forbidding anyone from smoking on the streets. The following year, it was decreed that jurymen might not smoke, on pain of a five shilling penalty.
In 1641, even the importation of tobacco was forbidden, although the law was repealed a year later. A law passed in 1646 prohibited all from smoking, but exempted "soldiers in time of their training." And, finally, in 1669, it was ordered that anyone found smoking on the Sabbath within two miles of a meeting house, would be fined 12 pence (Werner, 1922: 101).
The colony at New Haven, Connecticut, essayed a like series of statutes to regulate tobacco consumption. In 1646, the General Court decreed that:
No person under the age of twenty years nor any other that hath not already
accustomed himself to the use thereof, shall take any tobacko, until he hath brough a
certificate under the hands of [a physician] that it is usefull for him, and also, that he
hath received a license from the court for the same.... None shall take any tobacko,
publickly in the street or any open places unless on a journey of at least ten miles.
(Tobacco Institute, Connecticut: 20-21).
Within three years those laws were repealed (Werner, 1922: 102). However, it was further ordered in 1655 that:
No tobacco shall be taken in the streets, yards or aboute the howses in any
plantation or farme in this jurisdiction without dores, neere or aboute the towne, or in
the meeting howse, or body of the trayne Souldiors, or any other place where they may doe
mischief thereby, under the penalty of 84 pence a pipe for a time, wch is to goe to him
that informs and prosecuts (Heimann, 1960: 83).
As a result of the regulation, snooping became a profitable undertaking. In the end, however, the laws were of no avail in suppressing tobacco.
By 1680, the governor of Connecticut recognized the significance of the leaf and
reported that, "We have no need of Virginia's trade, most people planting so much
Tobacco as they spend," (Heimann, 1960: 84). Indeed, by the early 18th century, New
England-grown tobacco was being produced in great enough quantity for both domestic
consumption and export (Tobacco Institute, Connecticut: 22-23).
Tobacco was not one of the major concerns of the 18th century either before or after
the Revolution. Social reform was generally secondary to political issues. By the end of
the century, however, Dr. Benjamin Rush had published his "Observations upon the
influence of the Habitual use of Tobacco upon Health, Morals, and Property" in his
collection of Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical. It appeared in 1798, and stressed
the Doctor's thesis that smoking and chewing provoked drunkenness:
One of the usual effects of smoking and chewing is thirst. This thirst cannot be
allayed by water, for no sedative or even insipid liquor will be relished after the mouth
and throat have been exposed to the stimulus of the smoke, or juice of Tobacco. A desire
of course is excited for strong drinks, and these when taken between meals soon lead to
intemperance and drunkenness. One of the greatest sots I ever knew, acquired a love for
ardent spirits by swallowing ends of Tobacco, which he, (lid, to escape detection in the
use of it. . . (Robert, 1949: 106).
There was little immediate response to Rush's dire warnings, although in the year his tract was published, Boston enacted a statute to prohibit the carrying of a lighted pipe or cigar in public streets-apparently with the intent to reduce the hazard of fire (Brooks, 1952: 245).
An anti-tobacco crusade was launched in the 19th century, although with considerably less fervor that its sister movement against alcohol. Among the leaders were Rev. George Trask who said tobacco and alcohol were Satan's twins; and the Rev. Orin Fowler, who declared in 1833: "Rum-drinking will not cease,, till tobacco-chewing and tobacco smoking and snuff -taking shall cease" (Robert, 1949: 107). Another, Dr. Joel Shew, attributed delirium tremens, perverted sexuality, impotency, insanity and cancer to the effects of smoking and chewing (Brooks, 1952: 219).
The crusade warned as the pipe continued to attract adherents. From the 18th century on, the cigar too began to grow in favor, particularly after 1840. It is estimated that by 1850, the average number of cigars smoked was approximately 19 per capita. Within 10 years, the number had increased to about 26 (Gottsegen, 1940: 8-10).
Women smoked and chewed as well as the men. Indeed, Mrs. Andrew Jackson and Mrs.
Zachary Taylor both smoked their pipes in the White House (Heimann, 1960: 90). And, of
course, the other residents of the Capital engaged heavily in the practices of both
chewing and spitting, to the extent that Charles Dickens, during his tour of the States,
felt called upon to report that:
Washington may be called the headquarters of tobaccotinctured saliva.... In all the
public places of America, this filthy custom is recognized. In the courts of law, the
judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his, and the prisoner his; while the
jurymen and spectators are provided for. . . . The stranger will find [the custom] in its
full bloom of glory, luxuriant in all its alarming recklessness, at Washington (Brooks,
Chewing and snuffing remained popular until the time of the Civil War. Thereafter, cigarette smoking was gradually adopted in North America, a habit indirectly acquired through the British from their Turkish and French allies during the Crimean War (Werner, 1922: 105).
By 1870, approximately 13.9 million cigarettes were smoked annually in the United States, or .36 per capita. Over the next 60 years, the number was to reach 976.91 per capita (Gottsegen, 1940: 28).
As more persons took to cigarettes, the zeal of reformers, which had ebbed during the Civil War, was renewed. Pamphlets, like those of the Temperance Movement, were published, urging abstinence from smoking:
"I'll never use tobacco, no;
It is a filthy weed;
I'll never put it in my mouth."
Said Little Robert Reed.
"It hurts the health ; it makes bad breath;
'Til very bad indeed.
I'll never, never use it, no!"
Said Little Robert Reed (Brooks, 1952: 242-243).
During the period following the Civil War and prior to the formation of the American Tobacco Company in 1890, the anti-liquor forces continued to snipe at tobacco in all forms. A reformed drinker and temperance lecturer, John B. Gough, would pull from his pocket a square of tobacco, smell it as if it were a rose, cry out "Ali you black devil, I love-you" and throw it away.
The anti-tobacconists were led by Lucy Gaston, the greatest, warrior in the anti -cigarette campaign who was trained in the office of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and then moved over into the anti-tobacco Movement in the 1890's. Miss Gaston encouraged children to wear anti-tobacco pins or buttons and organized armies of children to sing and preach to and against their smoking elders (Wagner, 1971: 40).
"All hostility to tobacco seems nowadays to be concentrated on cigarettes,"
noted Harper's Weekly, observing the scene in 1905 (Robert, 1949: 169). It was scarcely a
startling revelation. Twenty years earlier, the New York Times editorialized that:
A grown man has no possible excuse for thus imitating the small boy.... The
decadence of Spain began when the Spaniards adopted cigarettes and if this pernicious
habit obtains among adult Americans the ruin of the Republic is close at hand . . . (Brooks,
Miss Gaston witnessed some legislation victories. Between 1895 and 1921, 14 states banned the sale of cigarettes (Neuberger, 1963: 52). Even in the city of New York it was declared unlawful for women to smoke in public (Brooks, 1952: 271). Curiously, However, the city of Boston repealed its law which prohibited smoking in public in 1880 (Gottsegen, 1940: 153).
The apparent success of the prohibitionists revived the anti-tobacconists' enthusiasm. "Prohibition is won; now for tobacco!" pledged Billy Sunday. Miss Gaston also renewed her dedication and actually announced her candidacy for the presidency of the United States in 1920 on an antitobacco platform.
For many anti-tobacconists, when it became apparent that the elder generation may be lost, the war against tobacco was focused on the youth of the country. The National Education Association pledged its membership to cooperate in efforts made in the city, state and nation to safeguard the health and morals of youth from cigarette smoking to the end that high ideals for American manhood may be, preserved for the coming generation (Hamilton, 1927: 168).
The National Congress of PTA, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1926 resolved "to lend its force to the cause of eliminating throughout the United State-, the use of cigarettes by minors and make this a special work for the ensuing year for the good of our youth" (Hamilton, 1927: 168).
It is for these reasons that the WCTU declared an educational war against tobacco, but declined to seek prohibitory legislation (Robert, 1949: 247).
The disenchanting experience of Prohibition, the omnipresence of the tobacco industry, the need for new sources of state revenues and the prevalence and popularity of cigarette smoking combined to frustrate the anti-tobacco campaign. Cigarettes did provide a new source of revenue. Federal income from tobacco taxes soared to new heights because of increased cigarette consumption and advanced rates.
In any event, by 1927, each of the 14 states which had enacted prohibitory laws against
cigarettes had repeated them (Neuberger, 1963: 52). Immediately thereafter these, states
imposed taxes upon the once forbidden product (Robert, 1949: 256; Federal Trade
Commission, 1970: 3).
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
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American Society for Action on Pain
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Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
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