THE Sussex coastline, with its coves and inlets, has long been a smugglers’ paradise. It probably still is, via its Ports.
Smuggling on the South Coast, a new book (Amberley) by Christopher McCooey, gives a fascinating insight into the sometimes deadly practice over the ages of avoiding Customs duty on such items as tea, tobacco and spirits.
Rouser particularly enjoyed the section on tobacco - ‘A custome lothsome to the Eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmfull to the Braine, and dangerous to the Lungs’.
One Rodrigo de Jerez was reputed to have been the first man to smoke the weed in Europe. He was imprisoned by the Inquisition for his ‘devilish habit’.
On Drake’s return from Virginia in 1586 his men brought with them pipes, tobacco and seeds. Their practice of what was at first called tobacco-drinking caused considerable excitement.
The income from taxing the pernicious weed was obvious. For a time it was held that it was good for the health - especially during the Plague - a neat way to boost both sales and tax revenue.
To further increase income, home cultivation of tobacco was, to all intents and purposes, banned.
Then the penny dropped. Tobacco was causing more harm than good.
One satirist wrote: ‘It’s good for nothing but to choke a man, and fill him with smoke and embers: why, tobacco will stifle them all in the end, as many as use it. It is little better than ratsbane,’
No more tobacco for Rouser!
Pictured, a satirical print depicting a gentlemen’s smoking club in 1792.