Tobacco and tobacco-related products have a long history that stretches back to 6,000 BC. The plant today known as tobacco, or Nicotiana tabacum, is a member of the nicotiana genus – a close relative to the poisonous nightshade and could previously only be found in the Americas.
In 1492, Columbus was warmly greeted by the Native American tribes he encountered when he first set foot on the new continent. They brought gifts of fruit, food, spears, and more and among those gifts were dried up leaves of the tobacco plant. As they were not edible and had a distinct smell to them, those leaves, which the Native Americans have been smoking for over 2 millennia for medicinal and religious purposes, were thrown overboard.
However, Columbus soon realized that dried tobacco leaves are a prized possession among the natives, as they bartered with them and often bestowed them as a gift.
Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres are the first Europeans to observe smoking. It was on Cuba and Jerez becomes a staunch smoker, bringing the habit back with him to Spain.