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Tobacco usage in the US (and the world) has impacted the lives of many. It's use and health risks has been the subject of much discussion, controversy and legal action.

What is the earliest research indicating tobacco products are addictive and/or harmful to the users health?

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It very much depends on what you mean by evidence, but if you're talking about major studies that produced meaningful results that actually captured people's attention, it was a series of case-control studies in 1950's, followed by a fair amount of more intensive research in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

It's a somewhat technical paper, but this paper describes both some of the early results, the medical research community's reactions to them, and the broader impacts on medical research as a field.

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    There were already studies in the 1930's in both Germany & the U.S. suggesting lung cancer and a reduced life span (but most of it was from Germany). Germany even outlawed things like smoking in public buildings, trains, and such out of concerns for second hand smoke (!) – Martin Tournoij May 5 '15 at 1:16
  • @Carpetsmoker - I agree that there was evidence long before, but there were methodological problems. I do like this 1938 paper in Science, though. Immunity?! – anongoodnurse May 5 '15 at 1:41
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    @Carpetsmoker As I said, it very much depends on what you mean by "evidence" - those are the results I found from my exposure to the epidemiological literature, but if you've got earlier - well, that's material for your own, better answer, is it not? – Fomite May 5 '15 at 2:03
  • @anongoodnurse Thanks for the link. And yeah, there wasn't a single "aha!" moment; there rarely is with this sort of thing. Evidence grows over time... I have half an answer written, not sure if I have time to finish it any time soon though ;-) – Martin Tournoij May 5 '15 at 17:04

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