All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Maine's 400-Year Smoking Habit

Cigarette taxes in Maine will be doubling on Monday, from $1 to $2 per pack. While prohibitions on alcohol consumption have a long history in Maine, "sin taxes" to discourage the use of tobacco are a fairly recent phenomenon.

L. Whitney Elkins, in his 1924 book The Story of Maine, describes the first encounter between European explorers in Maine and the evil weed. It was late in the spring of 1605, and Captain George Waymouth and his crew aboard the Archangel had dropped anchor in an island harbor at the mouth of the St. George River. Interactions with the native population ensued:
One day some of the redskins were invited to stay to supper; and not long afterwards when the Englishmen went ashore, they were greeted with unusual politeness by the natives and seated on deerskins among the Indians who were chatting and laughing around their fires. Presently a large tobacco pipe made of a lobster's claw, was passed round among them. At that time smoking was a new proposition to the English, but they sucked in the smoke just as their hosts did and called it "drinking tobacco." As to what the immediate effects were, we are told nothing. Anticipating the parlance of our own time, this was the first "smoker" of which we have record.

Source: L. Whitney Elkins, The story of Maine : coastal Maine. (Bangor, Me.: Hillsborough Co., c1924), p. 31.
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