Nobody knows for sure when the first tobacco plant was planted, but it is known where. The natives from the American continent were without doubt the first ones to grow tobacco and also the first ones to smoke it. More than a thousand years ago, the Mayas mixed tobacco with hallucinogens because the believed in the visions resulting from its smoking.
The Mayas inhabited the states of Veracruz, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas, as well as part of Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. This civilization appeared around 1500 b.c., but in 900 a.c. they left everything and some of them emigrated to the Yucatan peninsula, where they stayed until the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the XVI century. The Maya culture was integrated by different tribes. The main one (called also Mayas) occupied the Yucatan peninsula, the “Huastecos” settled in north Veracruz. The Mayas were the most advanced civilization in America. They developed an advanced calendar and they had understood the concept of zero in mathematics.
It is said that tobacco leaves were smoked during the religious eremonies. There are images more than one thousand years old depicting smoking gods. This and other customs where adopted by many other tribes as the Mayas spread to North and South America.
After the discovery of America, this custom extended to the rest of the world. Even though Christopher Columbus was not interested in tobacco, other colonizers introduced it to Spain and Portugal. Around 1560, the habit extended to France though the Portuguese ambassador Jean Nicot (hence the name “nicotine”), and later to Italy, Great Britain and other european countries, becoming a symbol of wealth and social status
The origin of the word “tobacco” is not clear. Some people believe it has to do with Tobago, an island in the Caribbean, another theory states that it is related with Tabasco, a state in Mexico.