The discoverer Juan de Grijalva lands in Yucatan, Mexico, and sees local people smoking tobacco leaves. The following year, the conquistador Cortez finds Aztecs in the capital of Mexico smoking strong, scented tobacco.
In his history of the West Indies, Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes writes: "Among other evil practices, the Indians have one that is especially harmful, the inhaling of a certain kind of smoke which they call tobacco. I cannot imagine what pleasure they derive from this practice."
Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Lisbon recommends tobacco snuff to his royal patron, Catherine de Medici, who suffers from severe migraines. The snuff provokes a relieving sneeze which astonishes her staff – but becomes fashionable. In Nicot's honour, the tobacco genus Nicotiania was later given its botanical name.
Conquistadors bring tobacco back to Spain as a luxury for the wealthy. But when Seville beggars begin to pick up discarded cigar butts, shred them and roll them in scraps of paper for smoking, they become known as cigarrillos, meaning little cigars.
King Philip II of Spain ponders tobacco's medicinal properties – not for the benefit of his subjects, but for commercial gain. He charges Royal Physician Francisco Hernandez with making a study of the plant's properties.
Nicolò Monardes, a famous physician at the University of Seville, recommends tobacco as a cure for more than twenty ailments, including tooth ache and asthma. Certainly not recommended today!
Sir Francis Drake returns from the Americas with what is thought to be the first consignment of tobacco to the UK.
Virginian colonists disembark at Plymouth smoking clay pipes.
A century after Columbus' voyage, tobacco is grown in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and England, and by the turn of the century the crop has spread to the Philippines, India, Java, Japan, West Africa and China – from where merchants take it to Mongolia and Siberia.