By the 1940s, when American scientists first detected a correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer (German scientists had found the same correlation in the 1920s and spearheaded the first antismoking campaign in modern history), humans already had a relationship with tobacco that reached back thousands of years. Widespread cultivation of tobacco began about 5,000 years ago; in addition to daily use (chewing, drying and inhaling, smoking), tobacco was used as an insecticide, medicinally as an analgesic or antiseptic, and for various ritualistic practices. Though tobacco has been celebrated for far longer than it has been denigrated as an unhealthy habit, condemnation of tobacco smoking has deep roots, too, reaching back to early Christians who viewed indigenous peoples’ smoking as evil and satanic. Still, by ...

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