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Why does Safehold have tobacco?

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Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Salisria   » Mon Jun 13, 2022 12:03 am

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There are occasional mentions of tobacco (and Pasqualate disapproval of its use) in the series. While it's probable that Federation standard nanites were able to deal with its deleterious effects, Langhorne, Bedard, and Pasquale had every reason and the capability to force all the colonists to go cold turkey and not bring the culture of Nicotina to Safehold, so why didn't they?

I can think of three in-universe reasons to unleash the demon tobacco upon Safehold, none of which seem all that compelling to me, but are at least plausible.

1. While the archangels could easily have kept tobacco from being used by the colonists as of the Day of Creation, they were unlikely to keep the command crew from using tobacco and they decided they wouldn't be able to keep it from spreading later to the colonists.

2. They brought Nicotina along in case they needed to use nicotine as a pesticide and they did. But in that case, I'd think there'd be proscriptions against any other use in the Writ.

3. They decided that human behavior would likely lead to the use of some tobacco-like substance and decided it was better for it to be tobacco with its known effects than something else with unknown effects that might well be worse.

Out-of-universe, the probable reason for Safehold to have tobacco is to provide a point of commonality with the humanity the reader knows.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by DMcCunney   » Tue Jun 14, 2022 8:16 pm

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Salisria wrote:There are occasional mentions of tobacco (and Pasqualate disapproval of its use) in the series. While it's probable that Federation standard nanites were able to deal with its deleterious effects, Langhorne, Bedard, and Pasquale had every reason and the capability to force all the colonists to go cold turkey and not bring the culture of Nicotina to Safehold, so why didn't they?

Why should they?

You might as well ask why they permitted consumption of alcohol, which arguably has more deleterious consequences than use of tobacco.

Yes, tobacco use can be hazardous to your health, but so can day to day life. One reason they might have brought it along is that some Command Crew users smoked. Access to Federation medical tech would have made it a non issue for them.

Another reason is that we can assume a criteria for selection for inclusion in Operation Ark as colonist was robust physical health. As a corollary, certain diseases like cancer running in your family would be a down check. To the extent manageable, you should produce many healthy and robust children.

Langhorne and Co's attitude was likely "Yes. tobacco can be bad for you. But given the religious injunction we are adopting that colonists should produce large families, a few suffering from the consequences of tobacco use will not endanger the goal of populating the planet. Let them smoke." And note the use of native Safeholdian Chewleaf filling the role chewing tobacco does here.

Realism may have been involved, too. Trying to prevemt people from doing things that make them feel good has never really worked. As mentioned above, colonists might discover native substitutes that filled a similar function,
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Salisria   » Wed Jun 15, 2022 4:24 am

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Is it ever explicitly stated that chewleaf is a native Safeholdian species rather than simply a Safeholdian name for chewing tobacco much like how coffee is called cherry bean tea?

Also, unlike nicotine, alcohol has numerous non-deleterious uses, so it doesn't make a good counterexample.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Loren Pechtel   » Fri Jun 17, 2022 7:11 pm

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DMcCunney wrote:You might as well ask why they permitted consumption of alcohol, which arguably has more deleterious consequences than use of tobacco.


In the US tobacco leads to about 400,000 deaths/year. Alcohol 100,000.

Alcohol, however, is a lot more likely to harm non-users.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by boballab   » Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:27 pm

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The reason for bringing Tobacco has nothing to do with Human consumption through smoking or chewing, the reason you bring it is because in a low tech agricultural setting it is one of the best insecticides. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_water

They are also not going to go out of their way to cause problems and they know that out right banning things like Alcohol and Tobacco does not work and causes more societal harm than keeping their mouths shut.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Salisria   » Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:43 pm

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boballab wrote:The reason for bringing Tobacco has nothing to do with Human consumption through smoking or chewing, the reason you bring it is because in a low tech agricultural setting it is one of the best insecticides. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_water

I grew up in Amish country and the Amish plant tobacco to use it as an insecticide.


I seriously doubt that Shan-Wei would have released any Terran insects that would be pests to Terran crops. For nicotine to be of any use as a pesticide would imply that by chance Safeholdian pests would be similarly susceptible to nicotine. Not entirely impossible, but as I mentioned in the opening post of this thread, if it were brought in case it were needed for that purpose and ended up being needed, it would almost certainly have been surrounded with anathemas against any other uses in the Writ and thus not in widespread use on Safehold.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Daryl   » Mon Jun 20, 2022 1:35 am

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Tobacco control would have been simple, just don't bring any plants to propagate.
Alcohol is different, carbohydrates in a liquid suspension will have their sugars converted to alcohol if there is any yeast present, and yeast is ubiquitous where ever humans are. For bread, on your skin, on any food stock. All you need is a few cells and time. I got into trouble sixty years ago, when at a church boarding school, and discussing converting water into wine. Pointing out that any fruit juice would rapidly become wine pre pasteurisation wasn't appreciated.
I have noticed with RFC that tobacco use is mentioned more often in his books than is by many other authors.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Julia Minor   » Wed Jun 22, 2022 1:18 pm

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Salisria wrote:
boballab wrote:The reason for bringing Tobacco has nothing to do with Human consumption through smoking or chewing, the reason you bring it is because in a low tech agricultural setting it is one of the best insecticides. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_water


I seriously doubt that Shan-Wei would have released any Terran insects that would be pests to Terran crops. For nicotine to be of any use as a pesticide would imply that by chance Safeholdian pests would be similarly susceptible to nicotine.


Shan-Wei may not have had a choice on the Terran insects. Those food plants weren't going to pollinate themselves, and she couldn't know at the time the ships for Operation Ark were loaded whether there would be insect-analogues at her destination that could take over the job.

Considering the amount of work that was done to make Safehold someplace humans could live without tech assistance, it's possible that Safehold tobacco has been tweaked a bit to be an effective insecticide against common Safehold-native insects. Either that, or the local insecticides are a mix of nicotine and some local bug-killing plant extract.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by Salisria   » Thu Jun 23, 2022 8:28 am

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I'm not aware of any Terran insects that are both useful pollinators and agricultural pests, so while it is possible they brought along tobacco seeds in case it did end up being useful against a pest native to the world being settled, it's doubtful they did so in case a Terran pest snuck aboard the Operation Ark fleet.

From the POV of the colonization team, I see no reason they'd have given tobacco to the Adams and Eves. Its inclusion in the stories is almost certainly there only because it gives readers a point of reference to make Safeholdian humanity more familiar to them by giving Safehold a society similar to that of the age of sail and the early industrial revolution on Terra.
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Re: Why does Safehold have tobacco?
Post by ecortez   » Tue Jul 19, 2022 1:48 pm

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I don't recall if it was ever discussed, but the tobacco in use on Safehold could've been genetically engineered to remove the carcinogens (while retaining the nicotine). There are other examples of re-engineered plant life, like the fleming moss, named after penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, which was designed so it could be used as a dressing for wounds with natural antibiotic properties.
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