As early as the 1st century BC American Indians were using tobacco for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. By the time Europeans arrived in the Americas in the 15th century, smoking was widespread.

Tobacco was introduced into Britain in 1565 and made fashionable by Sir Walter Raleigh 20 years later. But by the early 1600s the benefits of tobacco were being questioned, particularly by King James l (James Vl of Scotland), who, in his report 'Counterblaste to Tobacco' said smoking was 'a custome loathsome to the eye, hateful for the nose, harmful to the brain (and) dangerous to the lungs'.

The first suggestion that smoking might be addictive surfaced in 1610 when Sir Francis Bacon reported that trying to quit the habit was very difficult.

It was the invention of the manufactured cigarette that transformed tobacco smoking into a mass market. In 1854, London tobacconist Philip Morris began making hand-rolled cigarettes and the first cigarette factory in Britain opened in 1856.

The habit escalated rapidly among both sexes during the 1930s and 1940s. Today one in four adults smokes and one in every five deaths in Britain is caused by smoking.