World: Nicot's Weed

As French Ambassador to Lisbon in 1561, Diplomat Jean Nicot failed in his mission to marry off Queen Catherine de Medici's daughter to the King of Portugal. But Nicot won royal favor all the same by picking up in Lisbon an American weed whose most important ingredient today bears his name: nicotine. Ground into snuff, the tobacco successfully cured Queen Catherine of incessant headaches —it made her sneeze hard enough to clear out her sinuses.

Last week, still as enthused as Cather ine, the French government opened twelve months of festivities commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Nicot's weed in...

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