Tobacco is a common household word throughout all parts of the world. However, very few people are aware of the fact that the word “tobacco” was derived not from English or Latin but from the Spanish word “tube” for the tube used by American Indians for inhaling the smoke. It was American Indians who first cultivated tobacco, and the substance was introduced into Europe by Christopher Columbus on his return from the New World.
The botanical name for tobacco, “Nicotiana”, comes not from the Latin but from the name, Jean Nicot, the 16th century French ambassador to Lisbon, who brought tobacco seeds back to the French Queen, Catherine de Medici, From the French court, tobacco was carried to the farthest reaches of the known world by Portuguese and Spanish sailors.
There is a common saying among people of the developing countries that the first penny earned by a person is spent for bread and butter to satisfy his hunger; the second penny is for soap and detergent to cleanse bis body; the third penny, when available, is used to buy tobacco. So it would seem that throughout human civilization tobacco, while not essential to life, is, at the same time, part and parcel of the daily life. However, at least in the civilized world, tobacco is considered neither a foodstuff nor a major fragrance commodity.