A Counterblaste to Tobacco

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A Counterblaste to Tobacco is a treatise written by King James VI of Scotland and I of England in 1604, in which he expresses his distaste for tobacco, particularly tobacco smoking.[1] As such, it is one of the earliest anti-tobacco publications.

Style and content[edit]

It is written in Early Modern English and refers to medical theories of the time (e.g. the four humours).[2] In it, James blames Native Americans for bringing tobacco to Europe, complains about passive smoking, warns of dangers to the lungs, and decries tobacco's odour as "hatefull to the nose."[2]

Effects and legacy[edit]

James's dislike of tobacco led him in 1604[3] to authorize Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, to levy an excise tax and tariff of six shillings and eight pence per pound of tobacco imported,[4] or £1 per three pounds, a large sum of money for the time.

Because of continued high demand for tobacco in England and negative effects on the economies of the American colonies, the king in 1624 instead created a royal monopoly for the crop.[3] 150 years later, British utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham would cite A Counterblaste to Tobacco as an example of antipathy run wild.[2]


James VI and I

Have you not reason then to bee ashamed, and to forbeare this filthie noveltie, so basely grounded, so foolishly received and so grossely mistaken in the right use thereof? In your abuse thereof sinning against God, harming your selves both in persons and goods, and raking also thereby the markes and notes of vanitie upon you: by the custome thereof making your selves to be wondered at by all forraine civil Nations, and by all strangers that come among you, to be scorned and contemned. A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.

— James 1604[2]


  1. ^ Steve Luck, The Complete Guide to Cigars: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Finest Cigars, Bath, UK: Parragon, p. 13
  2. ^ a b c d A Counterblaste to Tobacco (retrieved February 22, 2008)
  3. ^ a b Ley, Willy (December 1965). "The Healthfull Aromatick Herbe". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 88–98.
  4. ^ Commissio pro Tobacco, James I, 1616

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Susan Campbell. "A matter of authority: James I and the tobacco war." Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 29.1 (1998). online
  • Ziser, Michael. "Sovereign Remedies: Natural Authority and the 'Counterblaste to Tobacco'." William and Mary Quarterly 62.4 (2005): 719-744. online

External links[edit]