Please don’t blame Sir Walter Raleigh
Everyone knows that Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco to Europe, but everyone is wrong.
Native to the Americas, various tribes cultivated tobacco and even greater numbers used the leaf, acquiring it through trade. The first Europeans to encounter tobacco were Christopher Columbus and his men who landed in 1492. Though Columbus reportedly was unimpressed by the leaf, many of his men thought otherwise. In time, the Spanish conquistadors introduced smoking and snuff to both Spain and Portugal.
Now that brings us to one Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to the Portuguese court in Lisbon. Not only did Nicot enjoy tobacco, he appreciated the fact that tobacco use was seen as a sign of wealth and culture. Nicot introduced tobacco to France and from there it spread to England and Scandinavia. As you no doubt have guessed, the word “nicotine” is derived from Nicot’s name.