roll of tobacco



Tobacco is an agricultural product, recognized as an addictive drug, processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. Tobacco has long been in use as a entheogen. However at the arrival of the Europeans, 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 it as a medicine to the court of Catherine de Medici. The effects of tobacco on human health is significant depending on the method of which it used and the amount. Of the various methods of consumption the primary health risks pertain to diseases of the cardiovascular system by the vector of smoking, which overtime allows high quantaties of carcinogens to deposit in the mouth, throat, and lungs.

Because of 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. It is believed to be the second leading cause of death worldwide. Rates of smoking has leveled off or declined in developed countries, however they continue to rise in developing countries.

Tobacco is cultivated similar 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 in a large single-piece farm equipment.

After harvest, tobacco is stored to allow for curing, which allow 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 "tobaco" 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.


Early developments

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 did not always use 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 was believed that tobacco was a gift from the Creator and that the exhaled tobacco smoke was capable of carrying 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, which eventually came to encompass as a cause for cancer, and 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.

As the industry's downward tumble continued, in the 1990s Brown & Williamsons cross-bred a strain a 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%. This prompted 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 tobaccos growth 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.

Primary risks

The main health risks in tobacco pertain to diseases of the cardiovascular system, in particular smoking being a major risk factor for a myocardial infarction (heart attack), diseases of the respiratory tract such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema, and cancer, particularly lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and mouth. It also increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 75%. Prior to World War I, lung cancer was considered to be a rare disease, which most physicians would never see during their career. With the postwar rise in popularity of cigarette smoking came a virtual epidemic of lung cancer.

A number of studies have shown that tobacco use is a significant factor in spontaneous abortions among pregnant smokers, and that it contributes to a number of other threats to the health of the fetus. Second-hand smoke appears to present an equal danger to the fetus, as one study noted that "heavy paternal smoking increased the risk of early pregnancy loss."


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 estimated in 2002 that in developed countries, 26% of male deaths and 9% of female deaths were attributable to smoking. 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 they continue to rise in developing countries. 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.

Active substances

Long term exposure to other compounds in the smoke, such as carbon monoxide, cyanide, and other compounds that damage lung and arterial tissue, are believed to be responsible for cardiovascular damage and for loss of elasticity in the alveoli, leading to emphysema and COPD.

There are over 19 known carcinogens in cigarettes. The following are some of the most potent carcinogens:

  • Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are tar components produced by pyrolysis in smoldering organic matter and emitted into smoke.
  • Acrolein is a pyrolysis product that is abundant is cigarette smoke. It gives smoke an acrid smell and an irritating, lachromatory effect and is a major contributor to its carcinogenity.
  • Nitrosamines are a group of carcinogenic compounds found in cigarette smoke but not in uncured tobacco leaves.

In addition to chemical, nonradioactive carcinogens, tobacco and tobacco smoke contain small amounts of lead-210 (210Pb) and polonium-210 (210Po) both of which are radioactive carcinogens. The radioactive elements in tobacco are accumulated from the minerals in the soil, as with any plant, but are also captured on the sticky surface of the tobacco leaves in excess of what would be seen with plants not having this property. Research by NCAR radiochemist Ed Martell determined that radioactive compounds in cigarette smoke are deposited in "hot spots" where bronchial tubes branch. Since tar from cigarette smoke is resistant to dissolving in lung fluid, the radioactive compounds have a great deal of time to undergo radioactive decay before being cleared by natural processes.


Tobacco has sometimes been reported to have positive effects on certain medical conditions, presumably due to the biological effects of nicotine. Most notably, some studies have found that patients with Alzheimer's disease are more likely not to have smoked than the general population. However, the research in this area is limited and the results are conflicting, and some studies show that smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. A recent review of the available scientific literature concluded that the reduction of Alzheimer's disease may be confounded because smokers die before the age at which Alzheimer normally occurs

A very large percentage of schizophrenics smoke tobacco as a form of self medication. The high rate of tobacco use by the mentally ill is a major factor in their decreased life expectancy, which is about 25 years shorter than the general population. Following the observation that smoking improves condition of people with schizophrenia, in particular working memory deficit, nicotine patches had been proposed as a way to treat schizophrenia.



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 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 framss or hotbeds, as their germination is activated by light. 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.

In the United States, tobacco is often fertilized with the mineral apatite, which partially starves the plant of nitrogen to produces a more desired flavor. Apatite, however, contains radium, lead 210, and polonium 210 — which are known radioactive carcinogens.

Tobacco is cultivated annual, 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 by a single piece of farm equipment, although topping the flower and in some cases the plucking of immature leaves is still done by hand.


Curing and subsequent aging allows for the slow oxidation and degradation of carotenoids in tobacco leaf. This produces certain compounds in the tobacco leaves very similar and give a sweet hay, tea, rose oil, or fruity aromatic flavor that contribute 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 can be processed into a number of products which include but are not limited to:

  • Chewing tobacco, Chewing is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. It is consumed orally, but is rarely consumed though actual chewing. Small amounts are placed at the bottom lip, between the gum and the teeth, where it is gently compacted, thus it can oftentimes be encompass Dipping tobacco. This stimulates the salve glands, which led to the development of the spittoon.
  • Creamy snuff, is a 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 tobacco, is 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, (also spelled gutkha, guttkha, guthka) 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.
  • 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 UK 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 a moist powder tobacco product that is consumed by placing it under the upper lip for extended periods of time. It is a form of snuff that is used in a manner similar to American dipping tobacco, but typically does not result in the need for 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.

Culture impact


Due to its long existence, tobacco has fostered many cultural items including: the usage of peace pipes, advertisements, movies. From its discovery tobacco has been highly regarded used in cultural ceremonies, for recreational purposes, and so forth. At the arrivals of the Europeans, tobacco was came to be regarded with wealth and knowledge. Smoking in public has for a long time been something reserved for men and when done by women has been 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 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.


From the mid-1900s and to today Tobbacco is often rejected. This has spawned quitting-associations, negative-campaigns, and so forth. Bhutan is the only country in the world where tobacco sales are illegal.


See also




  • (1997). The Merck Index. 12, Merk and Co..

Further reading

  • Breen, T. H. (1985). Tobacco Culture. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00596-6. Source on tobacco culture in eighteenth-century Virginia pp. 46–55
  • Burns, Eric. The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007.
  • W.K. Collins and S.N. Hawks. "Principles of Flue-Cured Tobacco Production" 1st Edition, 1993
  • Fuller, R. Reese (Spring 2003). Perique, the Native Crop. Louisiana Life.
  • Gately, Iain. Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization. Grove Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8021-3960-4.
  • Graves, John. "Tobacco that is not Smoked" in From a Limestone Ledge (the sections on snuff and chewing tobacco) ISBN 0-394-51238-3
  • Grehan, James. “Smoking and “Early Modern” Sociability: The Great Tobacco Debate in the Ottoman Middle East (Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries)”. The American Historical Review, Vol. III, Issue 5. 2006. 22 March 2008
  • Killebrew, J. B. and Myrick, Herbert (1909). Tobacco Leaf: Its Culture and Cure, Marketing and Manufacture. Orange Judd Company. Source for flea beetle typology (p. 243)
  • Murphey, Rhoads. Studies on Ottoman Society and Culture: 16th-18th Centuries. Burlington, VT: Ashgate: Variorum, 2007 ISBN 9780754659310 ISBN 0754659313
  • Price, Jacob M. “Tobacco Use and Tobacco Taxation: A battle of Interests in Early Modern Europe”. Consuming Habits: Drugs in History and Anthropology. Jordan Goodman, et al. New York: Routledge, 1995 166-169 ISBN 0-415-09039-3
  • Poche, L. Aristee (2002). Perique tobacco: Mystery and history.
  • Tilley, Nannie May. The Bright Tobacco Industry 1860–1929 ISBN 0-405-04728-2. Source on flea beetle prevention (pp. 39–43), and history of flue-cured tobacco
  • Rivenson A., Hoffmann D., Propokczyk B. et al. Induction of lung and pancreas exocrine tumors in F344 rats by tobacco-specific and areca-derived N-nitrosamines. Cancer Res (48) 6912–6917, 1988. (link to abstract; free full text pdf available)
  • Schoolcraft, Henry R. Historical and Statistical Information respecting the Indian Tribes of the United States (Philadelphia, 1851-57)
  • Shechter, Relli. Smoking, Culture and Economy in the Middle East: The Egyptian Tobacco Market 1850-2000. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2006 ISBN 1-84511-1370

External links

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