Nugget of Knowledge: Cigarettes

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The first European to smoke tobacco was Rodrigo de Jerez, one of Columbus's crew members

(WYTV) Who invented the cigarette?

Around the time of Christopher Columbus, the Aztecs smoked tobacco through a hollow reed or a cane tube.

The first European to smoke tobacco was Rodrigo de Jerez, one of Columbus’s crew members.

Jerez sampled tobacco that the native people in the Caribbean offered him, and he later brought some home with him to Spain.

His wife later called him a man who “swallows fire, exhales smoke, and is surely possessed by the devil.”

The conquistadors who saw the Aztecs smoke returned to Spain with something that looks like a cigar.

In the 1500’s, wealthy Spaniards smoked these cigars and often tossed the butts into the street.

The poor took these scraps, rolled them in pieces of paper and created the first cigarettes, which they called papeletes or cigarillos.

Merchants took the cigarillos to Italy and Portugal, and from there to the Middle East and Russia.

The French and British began to smoke them during the Napoleonic Wars and the French gave them the name we use today, cigarette.

In 1880, an American inventor, James Bonsack, created the first automatic cigarette-making machine.

It loaded tobacco onto a continuous strip of paper and the machine formed the cigarette. The machine then pasted, closed and cut it with a rotary knife. For better or worse, the cigarette was born.

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