United States

Tobacco vs. America

Shockingly, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 48,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. The entire population of El Dorado Hills is about 42,000 people. According the this information, more than the entire population of El Dorado Hills dies each year from cigarette smoking. Everyone in America has seen the anti-smoking ads. It is very clear to the average American that smoking is bad for the body and is linked to cancer, but many people don’t realize what tobacco has done for our nation. Tobacco became one of the first commodities in the world trade, and was one of the first bartering systems in the US. This crop quickly replaced gold, as it was becoming more rare as time went on. Although there are many negative effects of tobacco, our Nation was and still is undoubtedly affected by the crop. Our world would be drastically different if tobacco was never utilized in trade and financial benefit.

In order to understand the history of the United States, it is essential to know how tobacco has changed our world. It is widely known that the way people look at tobacco today is greatly different than the way they looked at it in the 1600-1900s. Without the effects that tobacco crop had on our nation, we would not be the United States that we are today. In the early ages of American tobacco, it was mostly used by the Indians spiritually, and as a cure for colds. But this all changed when John Rolfe created the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia in 1611. John Rolfe, who later famously married Pocahontas,  sailed to Virginia with the Virginia Company. The company sailed to Jamestown to seek some profit to the company from the colonists.  The colonists in Virginia tried a number of different things like glass making, lumber, sassafras, and soap ashes. None of Rolfe’s ventures were successful, so he decided to experiment with tobacco. Soon John Rolfe realized that this could create some financial benefit. Rolfe had found a new way to produce the tobacco with a more mild smoke. This developed the first profitable export of tobacco. Rolfe soon shipped the first export to England. England settlers compared the Virginia tobacco favorably with “Spanish” leaf. By 1630, over a million and a half pounds of tobacco were being exported from Jamestown every year. The tobacco economy rapidly began to shape the society and development of the colony of Virginia. The big problem that arose was that tobacco greatly affected the soil and cannot be replanted on the same spot of land for at least 3 years. This created a huge drive for new farmland and major westward expansion. It was hard and long labor to farm tobacco. Not many people wanted to do this work so this quickly led to a mass expansion of slaves.(“The Growth of the Tobacco Trade.”)

Our country may have been built on tobacco, but smoking causes many kinds of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses which are fatal for many sufferers.  In the 1950s the industry still does not publicly accept that smoking causes lung cancer. The annual global death toll caused by smoking  today is almost 500 thousand. During World war II, cigarettes sales were at an all-time high. Cigarettes were given to soldiers for free. This created thousands of loyal followers.

During the 1950s, More evidence was found linking cigarettes to lung cancer. Tobacco industry denied these health hazards. They sold healthier products that were more filtered and cleaner. Now that it is well known that cigarettes are bad for you, people are choosing healthier options like e-cigarettes and nicotine gum.

Although it is widely known that tobacco is bad for the human body, the government still funds tobacco plants in the US. Tobacco plants still are being funded in Virginia and Kentucky. “In 2014, tobacco companies spent more than $9 billion marketing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the United States. This amount translates to nearly $25 million each day, or about $1 million every hour” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The United States has spent billions of dollars on anti-smoking ads. For example,  California has spent about $20 million annually since 2000 on anti-tobacco advertising. Because of the way our society is set up, tobacco companies are powerless to stop criticizing ads from nonprofits such as these. Smoking is obviously an issue today, and four major cigarette companies have agreed to fund anti-smoking programs and ads. These companies have given over $100 billion to state governments and will continue to fund programs for 25 years, as a part of the $246 Billion settlement. This settlement has been in effect since 1998 and will continue until all $246 Billion has been funded.

Tobacco has played a very important role in creating America. It was the cash crop the made America thrive. Tobacco is widely known that it is bad for people, but in the 1600s it was the number one crop in the world. Tobacco has shaped America to be the way it is today. Over time scientists and lawyers have found that tobacco is bad for humans. The crop has majorly gone downhill, but still is one of the building blocks that made America what it is today. You can save thousands of lives by helping a loved one quit, or even go to sites such as www.smokefree.gov and donate to those in need of help.

Article by Hannah Dardano and Joel Hamersley

Works Cited

“Smoking & Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control

     and Prevention, 16 June 2017,


“Economics of Tobacco.” History Is Fun, www.historyisfun.org/economics-of-tobacco/.

“The Growth of the Tobacco Trade.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association,

History.com Staff. “John Rolfe.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009,


Randall, Vernellia R. The History of Tobacco, 31 Jan. 1998,


“Read ‘Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation’ at NAP.edu.” Nationa

l Academies Press: OpenBook, www.nap.edu/read/11795/chapter/4.

“Home.” Smokefree.gov, smokefree.gov/.

One Comment

  1. Well written article regarding the importance of tobacco, and I agree that tobacco did play a major role in shaping the country today because of how important of a cash crop it was. Since it did exhaust land, it pushed for westward expansion which led to important events in the development of America. I also agree on how the crop has since gone downhill because of the negative health effects it has that scientists have discovered.