Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, it is used in some medicines. In consumption it most commonly appears in the forms of smoking, chewing, snuffing, or dipping tobacco, or snus. Tobacco has long been in use as an entheogen in the Americas. However, upon the arrival of Europeans in North America, it quickly became popularized as a trade item and as a recreational drug. This popularization led to the development of the southern economy of the United States until it gave way to cotton. Following the American Civil War, a change in demand and a change in labor force allowed for the development of the cigarette. This new product quickly led to the growth of tobacco companies, until the scientific controversy of the mid-1900s.
There are many species of tobacco, which are all encompassed by the plant genus Nicotiana. The word nicotiana (as well as nicotine) was named in honor of Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who in 1559 sent tobacco as a medicine to the court of Catherine de Medici.
Due to the addictive properties of nicotine, tolerance and dependence develop. Absorption quantity, frequency, and speed of tobacco consumption are believed to be directly related to biological strength of nicotine dependence, addiction, and tolerance. The usage of tobacco is an activity that is practiced by some 1.1 billion people, and up to 1/3 of the adult population. The World Health Organization reports it to be the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and estimates that it currently causes 5.4 million deaths per year. Rates of smoking have leveled off or declined in developed countries, however they continue to rise in developing countries.
Tobacco is cultivated similarly to other agricultural products. Seeds are sown in cold frames or hotbeds to prevent attacks from insects, and then transplanted into the fields. Tobacco is an annual crop, which is usually harvested mechanically or by hand. After harvest, tobacco is stored for curing, which allows for the slow oxidation and degradation of carotenoids. This allows for the agricultural product to take on properties that are usually attributed to the "smoothness" of the smoke. Following this, tobacco is packed into its various forms of consumption, which include smoking, chewing, sniffing, and so on.
The Spanish word "tabaco" is thought to have its origin in Arawakan language, particularly, in the Taino language of the Caribbean. In Taino, it was said to refer either to a roll of tobacco leaves (according to Bartolome de Las Casas, 1552), or to the tabago, a kind of Y-shaped pipe for sniffing tobacco smoke (according to Oviedo; with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba).
However, similar words in Spanish and Italian were commonly used from 1410 to define medicinal herbs, originating from the Arabic tabbaq, a word reportedly dating to the 9th century, as the name of various herbs.
Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas when European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became popular. At high doses, tobacco can become hallucinogenic; accordingly, Native Americans never used the drug recreationally. Instead, it was often consumed as an entheogen; among some tribes, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men. Eastern North American tribes would carry large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item, and would often smoke it in pipes, either in defined ceremonies that were considered sacred, or to seal a bargain, and they would smoke it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood. It is believed that tobacco is a gift from the Creator and that the exhaled tobacco smoke carries one's thoughts and prayers to heaven.
Following the arrival of the Europeans, tobacco became increasingly popular as a trade item. It fostered the economy for the southern United States until it was replaced by cotton. Following the American civil war, a change in demand and a change in labor force allowed inventor James Bonsack to create a machine which automated cigarette production.
This increase in production allowed tremendous growth in the tobacco industry until the scientific revelations of the mid-1900s.
Following the scientific revelations of the mid-1900s, tobacco became condemned as a health hazard, and eventually became encompassed as a cause for cancer, as well as other respiratory and circulatory diseases. This led to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) which settled the lawsuit in exchange for a combination of yearly payments to the states and voluntary restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products.
In the 1970s, Brown & Williamson cross-bred a strain of tobacco to produce Y1. This strain of tobacco contained an unusually high amount of nicotine, nearly doubling its content from 3.2-3.5% to 6.5%. In the 1990s, this prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use this strain as evidence that tobacco companies were intentionally manipulating the nicotine content of cigarettes.
In 2003, in response to growth of tobacco use in developing countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) successfully rallied 168 countries to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Convention is designed to push for effective legislation and its enforcement in all countries to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco. This led to the development of tobacco cessation products.
There are many species of tobacco, which are encompassed by the genus of herbs Nicotiana. It is part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) indigenous to North and South America, Australia, south west Africa and the South Pacific.
Many plants contain nicotine, a powerful neurotoxin, that is particularly harmful to insects. However, tobaccos contain a higher concentration of nicotine than most other plants. Unlike many other Solanaceae, they do not contain tropane alkaloids, which are often poisonous to humans and other animals.
Despite containing enough nicotine and other compounds such as germacrene and anabasine and other piperidine alkaloids (varying between species) to deter most herbivores, a number of such animals have evolved the ability to feed on Nicotiana species without being harmed. Nonetheless, tobacco is unpalatable to many species, and therefore some tobacco plants (chiefly tree tobacco, N. glauca) have become established as invasive weeds in some places.
There are a number of types of tobacco including, but are not limited to:
- Aromatic fire-cured, it is cured by smoke from open fires. In the United States, it is grown in northern middle Tennessee, central Kentucky and in Virginia. Fire-cured tobacco grown in Kentucky and Tennessee are used in some chewing tobaccos, moist snuff, some cigarettes, and as a condiment in pipe tobacco blends. Another fire-cured tobacco is Latakia, which is produced from oriental varieties of N. tabacum. The leaves are cured and smoked over smoldering fires of local hardwoods and aromatic shrubs in Cyprus and Syria.
- Brightleaf tobacco, Brightleaf is commonly known as "Virginia tobacco", often regardless of the state in which they are planted. Prior to the American Civil War, most tobacco grown in the US was fire-cured dark-leaf. This type of tobacco was planted in fertile lowlands, used a robust variety of leaf, and was either fire cured or air cured. Most Canadian cigarettes are made from 100% pure Virginia tobacco.
- Burley tobacco, is an air-cured tobacco used primarily for cigarette production. In the U.S., burley tobacco plants are started from palletized seeds placed in polystyrene trays floated on a bed of fertilized water in March or April.
- Cavendish is more a process of curing and a method of cutting tobacco than a type. The processing and the cut are used to bring out the natural sweet taste in the tobacco. Cavendish can be produced from any tobacco type, but is usually one of, or a blend of Kentucky, Virginia, and burley, and is most commonly used for pipe tobacco and cigars.
- Criollo tobacco is a type of tobacco, primarily used in the making of cigars. It was, by most accounts, one of the original Cuban tobaccos that emerged around the time of Columbus.
- Dokham, is a tobacco originally grown in Iran, mixed with leaves, bark, and herbs for smoking in a midwakh.
- Turkish tobacco, is a sun-cured, highly aromatic, small-leafed variety (Nicotiana tabacum) that is grown in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Originally grown in regions historically part of the Ottoman Empire, it is also known as "oriental". Many of the early brands of cigarettes were made mostly or entirely of Turkish tobacco; today, its main use is in blends of pipe and especially cigarette tobacco (a typical American cigarette is a blend of bright Virginia, burley and Turkish).
- Perique, a farmer called Pierre Chenet is credited with first turning this local tobacco into the Perique in 1824 through the technique of pressure-fermentation. Considered the truffle of pipe tobaccos, it is used as a component in many blended pipe tobaccos, but is too strong to be smoked pure. At one time, the freshly moist Perique was also chewed, but none is now sold for this purpose. It is typically blended with pure Virginia to lend spice, strength, and coolness to the blend.
- Shade tobacco, is cultivated in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Early Connecticut colonists acquired from the Native Americans the habit of smoking tobacco in pipes, and began cultivating the plant commercially, even though the Puritans referred to it as the "evil weed". The industry has weathered some major catastrophes, including a devastating hailstorm in 1929, and an epidemic of brown spot fungus in 2000, but is now in danger of disappearing altogether, given the value of the land to real estate speculators.
- White burley, in 1865, George Webb of Brown County, Ohio planted red burley seeds he had purchased, and found that a few of the seedlings had a whitish, sickly look. The air-cured leaf was found to be more mild than other types of tobacco.
- Wild tobacco, is native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of South America. Its botanical name is Nicotiana rustica.
- Y1 is a strain of tobacco cross-bred by Brown & Williamson in the 1970s to obtain an unusually high nicotine content. In the 1990s, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used it as evidence that tobacco companies were intentionally manipulating the nicotine content of cigarettes.
Smoking in public was for a long time something reserved for men, and when done by women was sometimes associated with promiscuity. In Japan during the Edo period, prostitutes and their clients would often approach one another under the guise of offering a smoke, and the same was true for 19th century Europe.
Following the American Civil War the usage of tobacco, primarily in cigarettes, became associated with masculinity and power, and is an iconic image associated with the stereotypical capitalist. Today, tobacco is often rejected; this has spawned quitting associations and anti-smoking campaigns. Bhutan is the only country in the world where tobacco sales are illegal.
Research is limited mainly to tobacco smoking, which has been studied the more extensively than any other form of consumption. As of 2000, smoking is practiced by some 1.22 billion people, of which men are more likely to smoke than women (however the gender gap declines with age), poor more likely than rich, and people in developing countries or transitional economies are more likely than people in developed countries. As of 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that of the 58.8 million deaths to occur globally, 5.4 million are tobacco-attributed.
Tobacco use leads most commonly to diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer).
The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths in 2004 and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century. Similarly, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco use as "the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide."
Rates of smoking have leveled off or declined in the developed world. Smoking rates in the United States have dropped by half from 1965 to 2006, falling from 42% to 20.8% in adults. In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year.
When the market for tobacco reduced in the West, the industry looked to India and China for 'emerging markets'. Dr. Sharad Vaidya, a cancer surgeon worked tirelessly to fight this, through research, advocacy and passion. He successfully raised awareness, introduced it in the curriculum of children and managed to establish legislation banning public smoking, stopping sports sponsorship, sale to minors (under 21 years of age) - an age suggested by Jayant Vaidya , starting in Goa.
"Much of the disease burden and premature mortality attributable to tobacco use disproportionately affect the poor", and of the 1.22 billion smokers, 1 billion of them live in developing or transitional economies.
In Indonesia, the lowest income group spends 15% of its total expenditures on tobacco. In Egypt, more than 10% of households expediture in low-income homes is on tobacco. The poorest 20% of households in Mexico spend 11% of their income on tobacco.
The tobacco lobby gives money to politicians to vote in favor of deregulating tobacco. It is estimated that the United States tobacco lobby spends an average of $106,415 each day legislature meets; however the industry lost its support when the U.S. National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) filed charges against the Tobacco Institute, a tobacco industry advocacy group. This resulted in the Master Settlement Agreement, which forced the organization to disband and place all records on a website.
Tobacco is cultivated similar to other agricultural products. Seeds were at first quickly scattered onto the soil. However, young plants came under increasing attack from flea beetles (Epitrix cucumeris or Epitrix pubescens), which caused destruction of half the tobacco crops in the United States in 1876. By 1890 successful experiments were conducted that placed the plant in a frame covered by thin fabric. Today, tobacco is sown in cold frames or hotbeds, as their germination is activated by light.
In the United States, tobacco is often fertilized with the mineral apatite, which partially starves the plant of nitrogen, to produce a more desired flavor. Apatite, however, contains radium, lead 210, and polonium 210 — which are known radioactive carcinogens.
After the plants have reached relative maturity, they are transplanted into the fields, in which a relatively large hole is created in the tilled earth with a tobacco peg. Various mechanical tobacco planters were invented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to automate the process: making the hole, fertilizing it, guiding the plant in — all in one motion.
Tobacco is cultivated annually, and can be harvested in several ways. In the oldest method, the entire plant is harvested at once by cutting off the stalk at the ground with a sickle. In the nineteenth century, bright tobacco began to be harvested by pulling individual leaves off the stalk as they ripened. The leaves ripen from the ground upwards, so a field of tobacco may go through several so-called "pullings," more commonly known as topping (topping always refers to the removal of the tobacco flower before the leaves are systematically removed and, eventually, entirely harvested. As the industrial revolution took hold, harvesting wagons used to transport leaves were equipped with man-powered stringers, an apparatus which used twine to attach leaves to a pole. In modern times, large fields are harvested mechanically or by hand, although topping the flower and in some cases the plucking of immature leaves is still done by hand.
Curing and subsequent aging allow for the slow oxidation and degradation of carotenoids in tobacco leaf. This produces certain compounds in the tobacco leaves, and gives a sweet hay, tea, rose oil, or fruity aromatic flavor that contributes to the "smoothness" of the smoke. Starch is converted to sugar, which glycates protein, and is oxidized into advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), a caramelization process that also adds flavor. Inhalation of these AGEs in tobacco smoke contributes to atherosclerosis and cancer. Levels of AGE's is dependent on the curing method used.
Tobacco can be cured through several methods which include but are not limited to:
- Air cured tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns and allowed to dry over a period of four to eight weeks. Air-cured tobacco is low in sugar, which gives the tobacco smoke a light, sweet flavor, and high in nicotine. Cigar and burley tobaccos are air cured.
- Fire cured tobacco is hung in large barns where fires of hardwoods are kept on continuous or intermittent low smoulder and takes between three days and ten weeks, depending on the process and the tobacco. . Fire curing produces a tobacco low in sugar and high in nicotine. Pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff are fire cured.
- Flue cured tobacco was originally strung onto tobacco sticks, which were hung from tier-poles in curing barns (Aus: kilns, also traditionally called Oasts). These barns have flues which run from externally fed fire boxes, heat-curing the tobacco without exposing it to smoke, slowly raising the temperature over the course of the curing. The process will generally take about a week. This method produces cigarette tobacco that is high in sugar and has medium to high levels of nicotine.
- Sun-cured tobacco dries uncovered in the sun. This method is used in Turkey, Greece and other Mediterranean countries to produce oriental tobacco. Sun-cured tobacco is low in sugar and nicotine and is used in cigarettes.
Tobacco is consumed in many forms and through a number of different methods. Below are examples including, but not limited to, such forms and usage.
- Beedi are thin, often flavored, south Asian cigarettes made of tobacco wrapped in a tendu leaf, and secured with colored thread at one end.
- Chewing tobacco is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. It is consumed orally, in two forms: through sweetened strands, or in a shredded form. When consuming the long sweetened strands, the tobacco is lightly chewed and compacted into a ball. When consuming the shredded tobacco, small amounts are placed at the bottom lip, between the gum and the teeth, where it is gently compacted, thus it can oftentimes be called dipping tobacco. Both methods stimulate the saliva glands, which led to the development of the spittoon.
- Cigars are tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the smoker's mouth.
- Cigarettes are a product consumed through the inhalation of smoke and manufactured from cured and finely cut tobacco leaves and reconstituted tobacco, often combined with other additives, then rolled or stuffed into a paper-wrapped cylinder.
- Creamy snuffs are tobacco paste, consisting of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol, and camphor, and sold in a toothpaste tube. It is marketed mainly to women in India, and is known by the brand names Ipco (made by Asha Industries), Denobac, Tona, Ganesh. It is locally known as "mishri" in some parts of Maharashtra.
- Dipping tobaccos are a form of smokeless tobacco. Dip is occasionally referred to as "chew", and because of this, it is commonly confused with chewing tobacco, which encompasses a wider range of products. A small clump of dip is 'pinched' out of the tin and placed between the lower or upper lip and gums.
- Gutka is a preparation of crushed betel nut, tobacco, and sweet or savory flavorings. It is manufactured in India and exported to a few other countries. A mild stimulant, it is sold across India in small, individual-size packets.
- Hookah is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) water pipe for smoking. Originally from India, the hookah has gained immense popularity, especially in the Middle East. A hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat. It can be used for smoking herbal fruits or cannabis.
- Kreteks are cigarettes made with a complex blend of tobacco, cloves and a flavoring "sauce". It was first introduced in the 1880s in Java, Indonesia, to deliver the medicinal eugenol of cloves to the lungs.
- Roll-Your-Own, often called rollies or roll ups, are very popular, particularly in European countries. These are prepared from loose tobacco, cigarette papers and filters all bought separately. They are usually much cheaper to make.
- Pipe smoking typically consists of a small chamber (the bowl) for the combustion of the tobacco to be smoked and a thin stem (shank) that ends in a mouthpiece (the bit). Shredded pieces of tobacco are placed into the chamber and ignited.
- Snuff is a generic term for fine-ground smokeless tobacco products. Originally the term referred only to dry snuff, a fine tan dust popular mainly in the eighteenth century. Snuff powder originated in the English town of Great Harwood, and was famously ground in the town's monument prior to local distribution and transport further up north to Scotland. There are two major varieties which include European (dry) and American (moist); although American snuff is often referred to as dipping tobacco.
- Snus is steam-cured moist powder tobacco product that is not fermented, and does not induce salivation. It is consumed by placing it in the mouth against the gums for an extended period of time. It is a form of snuff that is used in a manner similar to American dipping tobacco, but does not require regular spitting.
- Topical tobacco paste is sometimes recommended as a treatment for wasp, hornet, fire ant, scorpion, and bee stings. An amount equivalent to the contents of a cigarette is mashed in a cup with about a 0.5 to 1 teaspoon of water to make a paste that is then applied to the affected area.
- Tobacco water is a traditional organic insecticide used in domestic gardening. Tobacco dust can be used similarly. It is produced by boiling strong tobacco in water, or by steeping the tobacco in water for a longer period. When cooled, the mixture can be applied as a spray, or 'painted' on to the leaves of garden plants, where it will prove deadly to insects.
- ↑ 
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- ↑ eg. Heckewelder, History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania, p. 149 ff.
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