Christopher Columbus makes the first recorded reference to smoking tobacco
On this day in 1492*, Columbus’s journal makes the first written reference to tobacco. His journal entry for the day reads:
“The two Christians met with many people on the road going home, men and women with a half-burnt weed in their hands, being the herbs they are accustomed to smoke”.
We have to wait until 1527 for Bartolomé de las Casas to provide more detail on a surprisingly contemporary sounding habit:
“They are dried leaves rolled up in the shape of the squibs made by the boys at Easter. Lighted at one end, the roll is chewed, and the smoke is inhaled at the other.
It has the effect of making them sleepy and almost intoxicated, and in using it they do not feel tired. These rolls of dried leaves are called by them tabacos.”
Las Casas goes on to note disapprovingly that there were Spaniards on Espanola who had presumably become the first European smokers. Even though smoking tobacco was seen as a vice, they said they could not leave off. Las Casas did not understand what pleasure or profit they found in it.
* The day was recorded as the 6 November 1492 using the Julian calender. Recalculated using today’s Gregorian calender, this date is 15 November 1492.