Mayan priests smoked tobacco though a pipe some 3,000 years ago
Ancient temple carvings depict Mayan priests in Central America smoking tobacco through a pipe. Tobacco leaves become widespread in medicine for use on wounds as a means of reducing pain. Later the Aztecs incorporate smoke inhalation into religious rituals.
Two castes of smokers emerge: the pipe smokers at the court of Montezuma and lesser Aztecs who roll the leaves into crude cigars.
470 - 630 AD
Mayan tribes begin to scatter – and tobacco travels with them. The leaf moves southwards to South America where it is wrapped in maize and palm leaves and smoked – and north where it is introduced to the native Americans in the Mississippi area.
In North America pipes are made from clay, marble or lobster claws. Some pipes, with two stems, are used for inhaling through the nostrils. Tobacco chewing is common, especially in South America, where the leaf is mixed with lime.
Arawak people in the Bahamas, on an island Christopher Columbus christens San Salvador, offer the explorer dried leaves. Not understanding their significance, Columbus discards them. A month later Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis Torres - returning from a trip into the interior of Cuba – stumble on villagers inhaling the smoke from burning dried tobacco leaves through a hollow Y-shaped piece of cane called a tobago or tobaca. Jerez is thought to be the first smoker outside the Americas.
When Jerez returns to his home town of Ayamonte, during the Spanish Inquisition, the holy inquisitors accuse him of "consorting with the devil" when they see smoke coming from his mouth. He is imprisoned for seven years. By the time he is released, smoking is a custom in Spain. Jerez perhaps sets a precedent for the plant's controversial future.