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[Perspectives] Taking to tobacco

We live in an era of national No Smoking Days. With reminders to give up tobacco as regular events, it is worth thinking back 400 years, to when Europeans were starting to smoke for the first time. No other intoxicant has done more to shape and define the modern world than “the holy herb”, as its early proponents tended to call it. Without Europeans taking to tobacco, it is difficult to see how the English colonies in Virginia would have first survived and then flourished; whether African slavery would have become the bulwark of trans-Atlantic economies; how western governments would have garnered the revenues they have; and whether people around the globe would socialise, relax, pose—and of course die—the way that they do.