400 years ago the Portuguese introduced it to the royal houses and rich of its colonies.
Text books on ayurveda written by the pundits of the Tanjore Maratha Kings have documented various uses for it. Along with other medicinal ingredients it was used as a panacea for various disorders. Some them being
- Burns fresh tobacco paste was used
- Night blindness
- Snake bite it was a first aid applied immediately after application of a torque.
- Knee joint aches
- Ear aches and infection.
- As dentifrice
- Excessive wound bleeding
- Dandruff and baldness.
When the British came they popularized smoking it. Initially they imported the tobacco from the Americas where it was a cash crop. When Americas declared independence the import cost was formidable so the British decided to introduce it as a cash crop in India.
They started off growing it in India then exporting it for curing and packing it was then marketed to the Indians again.
As the commercial market grew local manufacturing units were put up.
1887 saw the first Beedi factory, by 1930 it had become a major social menace.