Chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco is a smokeless tobacco product. Chewing tobacco also contains nicotine. Chewing is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. Native Americans in both North and South America chewed the leaves of the plant, frequently mixed with the mineral lime. Chewing tobacco contains a number of toxic chemicals including carcinogens, the consumption of which has been demonstrated to cause cancer, gum disease and a variety of other disfiguring or deadly diseases. The United States requires all smokeless tobacco advertisements to carry a warning label stating that they are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Meanwhile, some countries, such as Ireland , have made the product illegal.

U.S. Industry

In the U.S., the term "chewing tobacco" usually refers to dipping tobacco, which is not actually chewed, but rather placed as a stationary lump in between the lip and gums. The resulting saliva build-up is then spat onto the ground, or into a bottle or can for the sake of respecting others. Sales of chewing tobacco and moist snuff (smokeless tobacco) sold by American manufacturers to wholesalers were 109.4 million pounds in 1999; that represents the lowest level of sales in more than 100 years. However, possibly due to increasing regulations on public smoking, sales have since increased Those revenues reached $1.89 billion in 1993 and $1.94 billion in 1994. The total amount spent on advertising and promotion by the five major manufacturers declined slightly from 1997 to 1998 (from $150 million to $145 million), then rebounded to an all time high of $170 million in 2005. The most popular tobacco industry is the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. They manufacture Skoal, Red Seal, Copenhagen, Husky, and Rooster. Dipping tobacco is sold in almost all places where cigarettes are sold, but chewing tobacco is more limited in distribution.

The Southern U.S. was distinctive for its production of tobacco, which earned premium prices from around the world. Most farmers grew a little for their own use, or traded with neighbors who grew it. Commercial sales became important in the late 19th century as major tobacco companies rose in the South, becoming one of the largest employers in cities like Durham, NC and Richmond, VA. Southerners dominated the tobacco industry in the United States; even a concern as large as the Helm Tobacco Company, headquartered in New Jersey, was headed by former Confederate officer George Washington Helme. In 1938 R.J. Reynolds marketed eighty-four brands of chewing tobacco, twelve brands of smoking tobacco, and the top-selling Camel brand of cigarettes. Reynolds sold large quantities of chewing tobacco, though that market peaked about 1910.

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown, paying close attention to class and gender:

The chewing of tobacco was well-nigh universal. This habit had been widespread among the agricultural population of America both North and South before the war. Soldiers had found the quid a solace in the field and continued to revolve it in their mouths upon returning to their homes. Out of doors where his life was principally led the chewer spat upon his lands without offence to other men, and his homes and public buildings were supplied with spittoons. Brown and yellow parabolas were projected to right and left toward these receivers, but very often without the careful aim which made for cleanly living. Even the pews of fashionable churches were likely to contain these familiar conveniences. The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle. An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlors of hotels and in the streets.

Chewing tobacco remains popular in the American South and continues to spark controversy. In September 2006 both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Senator from Virginia admitted to chewing tobacco and agreed that it sets a bad example for children.


In the late 19th century, during the peak in popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States, a device known as the spittoon was a ubiquitous feature throughout places both private and public (e.g. parlours and passenger cars). The purpose of the spittoon was to provide a receptacle for excess juices and spittle accumulated from the oral use of tobacco. As chewing tobacco's popularity declined throughout the years, the spittoon became merely a relic of the Old West and is rarely seen outside museums.

See also


  • National Center For Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (Center for Disease Control), Smokeless Tobacco Fact sheet (2005) online at , with additional links

Chewing tobacco: Not a risk-free alternative to cigarettes

External links

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