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A Counterblast to Tobacco

A Counterblast to Tobacco

By

King James VI of Scotland and I of England

By the end of the 16th Century smoking had become widespread and popular in Britain. Christopher Marlowe declared that "all they that love not tobacco and boys are fools." Many disagreed, however, and King James, though a lover of boys, abhorred tobacco. In 1604  he initiated a two-pronged attack on the habit, imposing a heavy tax on it, and publishing this pamphlet. He attacks the habit of smoking from several angles, culminating in a rousing peroration where he describes it as

"A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless."

For many years afterwards, James was dismissed as a silly and puritanical bigot; however his views are now commonplace, even orthodox. How times change: the pendulum swings, and then swings back.

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