Tobacco in the Columbian Exchange

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On Columbus’ second voyage, a monk named Ramon Pane described how Native Americans used tobacco. At this point tobacco was not used recreationally, but as a medicine, or hallucinogen during religious ceremonies. The Europeans began using tobacco as a medicine until around 1560 when it began to be used recreationally. In 1561 the Queen of France (Catherine de Medici) declared it be called Herba Regina, which means the Queens Herb. Tobacco was introduced to England in the 1580s, and by the early 1600’s had spread all across Europe. In 1642 tobacco was officially legal tender. Debts, marriage licenses, and fines were paid in paid with tobacco. Tobacco was even used as collateral for a portion of Americas loans from France during the Revolutionary War in 1776. In World War I, people really began to use tobacco recreationally, and it was known as the “soldiers smoke.” Researchers eventually started discovering the negative effects of tobacco use starting in the 1950s. To date, tobacco is known as the number one leading cause of preventable death. Use of tobacco is still increasing in underdeveloped countries, raising 50% in China from 1992-1996. Researchers estimate that one in every ten adult deaths is because of using tobacco, and estimate that in the next twenty years, it will be every one in six. I would say that tobacco was good for being used as legal tender, but that once it began being used for recreational use, it would have been better if it was never exchanged.
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