Tobacco

Tobacco was used first by Native Americans for medicinal purposes even before Columbus discovered America. It began to be popular in Europe during the 1500's and in the early 1600's tobacco became the colonies’ largest export and fueled the demand for slave labor.

At first tobacco was used mainly for pipe-smoking, chewing and snuff. Although cigarettes had been around in crude form they didn’t become popular until after the Civil War.

As I was growing up I thought that only women dipped snuff and only men smoked and chewed tobacco. Both my grandmothers dipped snuff. My only living granddaddy chewed tobacco. My Daddy smoked cigarettes and his twin brother Uncle Earl chewed tobacco. I was in my teens before I saw a woman smoking. Mrs. McCollum lived across the street from us. She was an older lady considered “liberated”. One day she was sitting in a lawn chair in her front yard smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t believe my eyes. As the years went by cigarette smoking became the habit of choice by both men and women.

I remember when many public places provided spittoons to be used by those using snuff and chewing tobacco. The streets of Fayetteville never had these. I still remember going to town on Saturday when most of the rural people came to town and having to watch my step to keep from sliding down in tobacco juice.

When I worked on weekends at Alford Brothers I sold a lot of tobacco products. The “roll your owners” primarily used Prince Albert (in a red metal can) and Bull Durham (in a small cloth bag with a draw string opening). “Chewers” liked Brown’s Mule and Beechnut plug tobacco best. Plug tobacco came in little wooden boxes. I would take the empty ones home with me for different projects. Women bought Railroad, Buttercup and Tube Rose snuff frequently.

Today tobacco usage is less acceptable after it was determined that it caused health problems. In 1965, Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring the surgeon general’s warnings on all cigarette packages. All broadcast advertising of cigarettes was banned in 1971.

My mother hated tobacco in any form, although she condoned my daddy’s habit. I feel that his heavy smoking led to his early death. My mother’s influence and my father’s untimely death kept me from ever using tobacco.