The History and Future of Smoking

Tom Wesselmann’s ‘Smoker #17’

Part One — How Smoking became a burning sensation

It is believed that humans began smoking over 7 millenniums ago, primarily in religious rituals — and there is evidence of Tobacco use dating back to ancient Peru and Mexico. It would take another 6500 years for the habit to reach Western Civilisation however, with Tobacco being introduced by Sir Francis Drake upon his return from the New World in the 1500s. It was initially seen as a form of medicine, much like Tea and Opium at the time, although it quickly came to be used for recreational purposes — so much so that efforts were being made all over the continent to restrict its use. The Catholic Church opposed it on the grounds that it was ‘sinful’, and King James I called smoking:

Figure 1: Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. What impact did references to tobacco in popular culture have on smoking rates?
Figure 2: Mel Ramos’s Tobacco Rose, which, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, ‘conjures a pinup girl from the colorful world of commercial advertising. Mel Ramos riffed on the common tactic of using overt sexuality to sell products. The model radiates confidence as she straddles an oversized pack of cigarettes and casts a seductive gaze as the viewer. As the title suggests, the alluring woman and the tobacco she’s marketing are fused into a single product, precisely contrived to seduce the onlooker.’
Figure 3: Duane Hanson’s ‘Supermarket Shopper’

Part Two — A new frontier: Why Vaping is the Solution to ending Tobacco use

If we are to understand how we can end the deaths associated with the consumption of nicotine, then we must explore the science behind why smoking is so harmful in the first place. Whilst I was researching this topic, I was shocked at how much misinformation there was online, and at how hard it was to find the actual science behind why smoking is harmful. Whilst there are a vast number of sites online condemning smoking and referring to the long-term effects of smoking on health, very few sources actually explained why it is so harmful. Ironically, the website of Philip Morris International proved to be a rather good source — in their efforts to promote their IQOS line of heated tobacco and their IQOS MESH brand of e-cigarettes, the company have made publicly available the information that they, for decades, have tried to conceal and for many years publicly denied. (Atlantic)

Figure 4: JUUL has created an attractive and ‘cool’ alternative to smoking, but what are the implications on public health and ending nicotine addiction?
Philip Morris International claims to be committed to delivering a ‘smoke-free’ future with its new IQOS line, but how true can this really be whilst the company continues to sell Billions of pounds worth of cigarettes each year?
Tom Wesselmann’s ‘Smoker’



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Adam Louis Sebastian Lehodey

Adam Louis Sebastian Lehodey


I write about economics, literature, philosophy, sociology, urbanism, and anything that interests me at the time.