Tobacco (Nicotiana spp., L.) refers to a genus of broad-leafed plants of the nightshade family indigenous to North and South America or to the dried and cured leaves. Such leaves are often smoked (see tobacco smoking) in the form of a cigar or cigarette, or in a smoking pipe, or in a water pipe or a hookah. Tobacco is also chewed, dipped (placed between the cheek and gum), and consumed as finely powdered snuff tobacco, which is sniffed into the nose. The Spanish word tabaco is thought to have its origin in Arawakan language, particularly, in the Taino language of the Caribbean, said to refer to a roll of these leaves (according to Bartolome de Las Casas, 1552) or to a kind of pipe for smoking it (according to Oviedo), but Sp. tabaco (also It. tabacco) was comonly used to define medicinal herbs from 1410, originating from the Arabic tabbaq, reportedly since the 9th c., as the name of various herbs. The word might then be European, and later applied to this plant from the Americas . tabago a Y-shaped pipe used to sniff tobacco smoke through the nostrils.
Tobacco contains the alkaloid nicotine, a powerful neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to insects. All means of consuming tobacco result in the absorption of nicotine in varying amounts into the users bloodstream, and over time the development of tolerance and dependence. Absorption quantity, frequency and speed seem to have a direct relationship with how strong a dependence and tolerance, if any, might be created. A lethal dose of nicotine is contained in as little as one half of a cigar or three cigarettes; however, only a fraction of the nicotine contained in these products is actually released into the smoke, and most clinically significant cases of nicotine poisoning are the result of concentrated forms of the compound used as insecticides. Other active alkaloids in tobacco include harmala.
Major hazards of tobacco use, however, involve carcinogenic compounds in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Many jurisdictions have enacted smoking bans in an effort to minimize possible damage to public health caused by tobacco smoking.
Native Americans used tobacco before Europeans arrived in America, and early European settlers in America learned to smoke and brought the practice back to Europe, where it became hugely popular. At extremely high doses, tobacco becomes hallucinogenic; accordingly, Native Americans generally did not use the drug recreationally. Rather, it was often consumed in extraordinarily high quantities and used as an entheogen; generally, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men. In addition to being smoked, uncured tobacco was often eaten, drunk as tobacco juice, or used in enemas. Early missionaries often reported on the state caused by tobacco, but as it spread into the west, it was no longer used in such large quantities or for entheogenic purposes. Religious use of tobacco is still common among many indigenous peoples, particularly those of South America.
Since the beginnings of colonial America, long before the creation of the United States, tobacco, almost entirely on its own, fueled the colonization in the future American South. The notion that America was built on tobacco is quite accurate; and the initial colonial expansion, fueled by the desire to increase tobacco production, caused the first colonial conflicts with Native Americans, and also soon led to the use of African slaves for cheap labor.
In 1609, John Rolfe arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. He was the first man to successfully raise tobacco at Jamestown. The tobacco raised in Virginia at that time, Nicotiana rustica, was not to the liking of the Europeans, but Rolfe had brought some seed for Nicotiana tabacum with him from Bermuda. Shortly after arriving, his first wife died, and he married Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan. Although most of the settlers wouldnt touch the tobacco crop, Rolfe was able to make his fortune farming it. When he left for England with Pocahontas, he was wealthy. When Rolfe returned to Jamestown following Pocahontass death in England, he continued to improve the quality of tobacco. By 1620, 40,000 pounds of tobacco were shipped to England. By the time John Rolfe died in 1622, Jamestown was thriving as a producer of tobacco and Jamestowns population would top 4,000. Tobacco led to the importation of the colonys first black slaves as well as women from England in 1619.
The importation of tobacco into Europe was not without resistance and controversy, even in the 17th century. King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) published a famous polemic titled A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604. In his essay, the king denounced tobacco use as [a] custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse. In that same year, an English statute was enacted that placed a heavy protective tariff on every pound of tobacco brought into England.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco continued to be the cash crop of the Virginia Colony. Large tobacco warehouses filled the areas near the wharfs of new thriving towns such as Richmond and Manchester at the fall line (head of navigation) on the James River, and Petersburg on the Appomattox River.
Until 1883, tobacco excise tax accounted for one third of internal revenue collected by the United States government.
Tobacco seeds are started very early in the year. The seeds are scattered onto the surface of the soil, as their germination is activated by light. In colonial Virginia, seedbeds were fertilized with wood ash or animal manure (frequently powdered horse manure). Seedbeds were then covered with branches to protect the young plants from frost damage. These plants were left to grow until around April.
In the nineteenth century, young plants came under increasing attack from the flea beetle (Epitrix cucumeris or Epitrix pubescens), causing destruction of half the United States tobacco crop in 1876. In the years afterward, many experiments were attempted and discussed to control the flea beetle. By 1880 it was discovered that replacing the branches with a frame covered by thin cloth would effectively protect plants from the beetle. This practice spread until it became ubiquitous in the 1890s.
Today, in the United States, unlike other countries, tobacco is often fertilized with the mineral apatite in order to partially starve the plant for nitrogen, which changes the taste. This accounts for the different flavor of American cigarettes from those available in other countries. There is, however, some suggestion that this may have adverse health effects attributable to the polonium content of apatite.
After the plants have reached a certain height, they are transplanted into fields. This was originally done by making a relatively large hole in the tilled earth with a tobacco peg, then placing the small plant in the hole. Various mechanical tobacco planters were invented throughout the late 19th and early 20th century to automate this process, making a hole, fertilizing it, and guiding a plant into the hole with one motion.
Topping and suckering
Once the tobacco plants are growing well, they will begin to produce shoots from the joint of each leaf with the stalk. These secondary shoots — known as suckers — are undesirable as they divert energy that could be directed into the leaves. They are removed in a process known as suckering (sometimes spelled succoring in older writing). Generally this is done by hand several times during the season. Recently anti-suckering compounds have come into use.
At a certain stage of maturity, the plant will produce a flower cluster from its tip, as well as the tips of any suckers that remain on the plant. In order to divert more energy into the leaves, the plant is topped — the top is cut off.
Tobacco is harvested in one of two ways. In the oldest method, the entire plant is harvested at once by cutting off the stalk at the ground with a curved knife. 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 pullings before the tobacco is entirely harvested, and the stalks may be turned into the soil. Cropping is the term for pulling leaves off tobbacco. Originally workers cropped the tobacco and placed it on mule-pulled sleds. Later tobacco harvesters were invented - basically a trailer pulled behind a tractor. The harvester is a wheeled sled or trailer that has seats for the croppers to sit on and seats just in front of these for the stringers to sit on. The croppers pull the leaves off in handfuls, and pass these to the stringer, who loops twine around the handfuls of tobacco and hangs them on a long wooden square pole. Traditionally, the croppers, down in the dark and wet, with ther faces getting slapped by the huge tobacco leaves, were men, and the stringers seated on the higher elevated seats were women. The harvester has places for 4 teams of workers: 8 people cropping and stringing, plus a packer who takes the heavy strung poles of wet green tobacco from the stringers and packs them onto the pallet section of the harvester, plus a driver, making the total crew of each harvester 10 people. Interstingly, the outer seats are suspended from the harvester - slung out over to fit into the aisles of tobacco. As these seats are suspended it is important to balance the weight of the 2 outside teams (similar to a playground see-saw). Having too heavy or light a person in an unbalanced combination often results in the harvester tipping over especially when turning around at the end of a lane. Leaves are cropped as they ripen, from the bottom of the stalk up. The first crop at the very bottom of the stalks are called sand lugs, as they are often against the ground and are coated with dirt splashed up when it rains. Sand lugs weigh the most, and are most difficult to work with. Water tanks are a common feature on the harvester due to heat, and danger of de-hydration for the workers. Salt tablets sometimes get used as well.
Pests of tobacco include the moth Endoclita excrescens, Manduca sexta, and Manduca quinquemaculata
Cut plants or pulled leaves are immediately transferred to tobacco barns, where they will be cured. Curing methods varies with the type of tobacco grown, and tobacco barn design varies accordingly. Air-cured tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns and allowed to dry over a period of days. Fire-cured tobacco is hung in large barns where smoldering fires of hardwoods are kept burning. Flue-cured tobacco was originally strung onto tobacco sticks, which were hung from tier-poles in large cubical barns (Aus: kilns, also traditionally called Oasts). These barns have flues which run from externally-fed fire boxes to the roof, heat-curing the tobacco without exposing it to smoke.
After tobacco is cured, it is moved from the curing barn into a storage area for processing. If whole plants were cut, the leaves are removed from the tobacco stalks in a process called stripping. For both cut and pulled tobacco, the leaves are then sorted into different grades. In colonial times, the tobacco was then prized into hogsheads for transportation. In bright tobacco regions, prizing was replaced by stacking wrapped hands into loose piles to be sold at auction. Today, most cured tobacco is baled before sales under contract.
Fire-cured smoking tobacco is a robust variety of tobacco used as a condimental for pipe blends. It is cured by smoking over gentle fires. In the United States, it is grown in the western part of Tennessee, Western Kentucky and in Virginia. Latakia is a 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. Latakia has a pronounced flavor and a very distinctive aroma, and is used in the so-called Balkan and English-style pipe tobacco blends.
Fire-cured tobacco grown in Kentucky and Tennessee is used in some chewing tobaccos, moist snuff, some cigarettes and as a condiment leaf in pipe tobacco blends. It has a rich, slightly floral taste, and adds body and aroma to the blend.
Prior to the American Civil War, the tobacco grown in the US was almost entirely fire-cured dark-leaf. This was planted in fertile lowlands, used a robust variety of leaf, and was fire cured or air cured.
Sometime after the War of 1812, demand for a milder, lighter, more aromatic tobacco arose. Ohio and Maryland both innovated quite a bit with milder varieties of the tobacco plant. Farmers around the country experimented with different curing processes. But the breakthrough didnt come until 1854.
It had been noticed for centuries that sandy, highland soil produced thinner, weaker plants. Captain Abisha Slade, of Caswell County, North Carolina had a good deal of infertile, sandy soil, and planted the new gold-leaf varieties on it. Slade owned a slave, Stephen, who accidentally produced the first real bright tobacco. He used charcoal to restart a fire used to cure the crop. The surge of heat turned the leaves yellow. Using that discovery, Slade developed a system for producing bright tobacco, cultivating on poorer soils and using charcoal for heat-curing.
News spread through the area pretty quickly. The worthless sandy soil of the Appalachian piedmont was suddenly profitable, and people rapidly developed flue-curing techniques, a more efficient way of smoke-free curing. By the outbreak of the War, the town of Danville, Virginia actually had developed a bright-leaf market for the surrounding area in Caswell County, North Carolina and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Danville was also the main railway head for Confederate soldiers going to the front. These brought bright tobacco with them from Danville to the lines, traded it with each other and Union soldiers, and developed quite a taste for it. At the end of the war, the soldiers went home and suddenly there was a national market for the local crop. Caswell and Pittsylvania counties were the only two counties in the South that experienced an increase in total wealth after the war.
In 1864, 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. He transplanted them to the fields anyway, where they grew into mature plants but retained their light color. The cured leaves had an exceedingly fine texture and were exhibited as a curiosity at the market in Cincinnati. The following year he planted ten acres (40,000 m²) from seeds from those plants, which brought a premium at auction. The air-cured leaf was found to be mild tasting and more absorbent than any other variety. White Burley, as it was later called, became the main component in chewing tobacco, American blend pipe tobacco, and American-style cigarettes. The white part of the name is seldom used today, since red burley, a dark air-cured variety of the mid-1800s, no longer exists.
It is not well known that the northern US state of Connecticut is also one of the important tobacco-growing regions of the country. However, long before Europeans arrived in the area, Native Americans harvested wild tobacco plants that grew along the banks of the Connecticut River. Today, the Connecticut River valley north of Hartford, Connecticut is known as Tobacco Valley, and the fields and drying sheds are visible to travelers on the road to and from Bradley Field, the major Connecticut airport. The tobacco grown here is known as shade tobacco, and is used as outer wrappers for some of the worlds finest cigars.
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 plant was outlawed in Connecticut in 1650, but in the 1800s as cigar smoking began to be popular, tobacco farming became a major industry, employing farmers, laborers, local youths, southern African Americans, and migrant workers.
Working conditions varied from pleasant summer work for students, to backbreaking exploitation of migrants. Each tobacco plant yields only 18 leaves useful as cigar wrappers, and each leaf requires a great deal of individual manual attention after harvesting, some of which must be carried out in the drying sheds, where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 1921, Connecticut tobacco production peaked, at 31,000 acres (125 km²) under cultivation. The rise of cigarette smoking and the decline of cigar smoking has caused a corresponding decline in the demand for shade tobacco, reaching a minimum in 1992 of 2,000 acres (8 km²) under cultivation. Since then, however, cigar smoking has become more popular again, and in 1997 tobacco farming had risen to 4,000 acres (16 km²). The industry has weathered some major catastrophes, including a devastating hailstorm in 1929, and an epidemic of brown spot fungus in 2000.
Perhaps the most strongly-flavored of all tobaccos is the Perique, from Saint James Parish, Louisiana. When the Acadians made their way into this region in 1776, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes were cultivating a variety of tobacco with a distinctive flavor. A farmer called Pierre Chenet is credited with first turning this local tobacco into the Perique in 1824 through the technique of pressure-fermentation.
The tobacco plants are manually kept suckerless, and pruned to exactly 12 leaves, through their early growth. In late June, when the leaves are a dark, rich green and the plants are 24-30 inches (600 to 750 mm) tall, the whole plant is harvested in the late evening and hung to dry in a sideless curing barn. Once the leaves have partially dried, but while still supple (usually less than 2 weeks in the barn), any remaining dirt is removed and the leaves are moistened with water and stemmed by hand. The leaves are then rolled into torquettes of approximately 1 pound (450 g) and packed into hickory whiskey barrels. The tobacco is then kept under pressure using oak blocks and massive screw jacks, forcing nearly all the air out of the still-moist leaves. Approximately once a month, the pressure is released, and each of the torquettes is worked by hand to permit a little air back into the tobacco. After a year of this treatment, the Perique is ready for consumption, although it may be kept fresh under pressure for many years. Extended exposure to air degrades the particular character of the Perique. The finished tobacco is dark brown, nearly black, very moist with a fruity, slightly vinegary aroma.
Considered the truffle of pipe tobaccos, the Perique is used as a component of 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. Less than 16 acres (65,000 m²) of this crop remain in cultivation, most by a single farmer called Percy Martin, in Grande Pointe, Louisiana. For reasons unknown, the particular flavor and character of the Perique can only be acquired on a small triangle of Saint James Parish, less than 3 by 10 miles (5 by 16 km). Although at its peak, Saint James Parish was producing around 20 tons of the Perique a year, output is now only a few barrelsful.
While traditionally a pipe tobacco (and still available from some specialist tobacconists), the Perique may now also be found in the Perique cigarettes of Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., in an approximately 1 part to 5 blend with lighter tobaccos. A similar tobacco, based on pressure-fermented Kentucky tobacco is available by the name Acadian Green River Perique.
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. This is often called Scotch Snuff, a folk-etymology derivation of the scorching process used to dry the cured tobacco by the factor.
European (dry) snuff is intended to be sniffed up the nose. Snuff is not snorted due to the fact that you do not want the snuff to get past the nose i.e.; into sinuses, throat or lungs. European snuff comes in several varieties: Plain, Toast (fine ground - very dry), Medicated (menthol, camphor, eucalyptus, etc.), Scented and Schmalzler (a German variety.) The major brand names of European snuff are: Bernards (Germany), Fribourg & Treyer (UK), Gawith (UK), Gawith Hoggarth (UK), Hedges (UK), Lotzbeck (Germany), McChrystals (UK), Pöschl (Germany) and Wilsons of Sharrow (UK).
Snuff has even been found to be beneficial in some cases of hay fever due to the fact that the snuff may prevent allergins from getting to the mucus membrane within the nose.
American snuff is much stronger, and is intended to be dipped. It comes in two varieties -- sweet and salty. Until the early 20th century, snuff dipping was popular in the United States among rural people, who would often use sweet barkless twigs to apply it to their gums. Popular brands are Tube Rose and Navy.
The second, and more popular in North America, variety of snuff is moist snuff, or dipping tobacco. This is occasionally referred to as snoose derived from the Scandinavian word for snuff, snus. Like the word, the origins of moist snuff are Scandinavian, and the oldest American brands indicate that by their names. American Moist snuff is made from dark fire-cured tobacco that is ground, sweetened, and aged by the factory. Prominent North American brands are Copenhagen, Skoal, Chisholm, and Kodiak also Grizzley. American moist snuff tends to be dipped.
Some modern smokeless tobacco brands, such as Kodiak, have an aggressive nicotine delivery. This is accomplished with a higher dose of nicotine than cigarettes, a high pH level (which helps nicotine enter the blood stream faster), and a high portion of unprotonated (free base) 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 lime. Modern chewing tobacco is produced in three forms: twist, plug, and scrap. A few manufacturers in the United Kingdom produce particularly strong twist tobacco meant for use in smoking pipes rather than chewing. These twists are not mixed with lime although they may be flavored with whisky, rum, cherry or other flavors common to pipe tobacco.
Twist is the oldest form. One to three high-quality leaves are braided and twisted into a rope while green, and then are cured in the same manner as other tobacco. Until recently this was done by farmers for their personal consumption in addition to other tobacco intended for sale. Modern twist is occasionally lightly sweetened. It is still sold commercially, but rarely seen outside of Appalachia. Popular brands are Mammoth Cave, Moores Red Leaf, and Cumberland Gap. Users cut a piece off the twist and chew it, expectorating.
Plug chewing tobacco is made by pressing together cured tobacco leaves in a sweet (often molasses-based) syrup. Originally this was done by hand, but since the second half of the 19th century leaves were pressed between large tin sheets. The resulting sheet of tobacco is cut into plugs. Like twist, consumers cut a piece off of the plug to chew. Major brands are Days O Work and Cannonball.
Scrap, or looseleaf chewing tobacco, was originally the excess of plug manufacturing. Its sweetened like plug tobacco, but sold loose in bags rather than a plug. Looseleaf is by far the most popular form of chewing tobacco. Popular brands are Red Man, Beechnut, and Mail Pouch. Looseleaf chewing tobacco can also be dipped.
During the peak of popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States in the late 19th century, spittoons were a common device for users to spit into.
Swedish snus is different in that it is made from steam-cured tobacco, rather than fire-cured, and its health effects are markedly different, with epidemiological studies showing dramatically lower rates of cancer and other tobacco-related health problems than cigarettes, American Chewing Tobacco, Indian Gutka or African varieties. Prominent Swedish brands are Swedish Match, Ettan, and Tre Ankare. In the Scandinavian countries, moist snuff comes either in loose powder form, to be pressed into a small ball or ovoid either by hand or by use of a special tool, or packaged in small bags, suitable for placing inside the upper lip, called portion snuff.
Since it is not smoked, snuff in general avoids generating many of the nitrosamines and other carcinogens in the tar that forms from the partially anaerobic reactions in the smoldering smoked tobacco. The steam curing rather than fire curing of snus has been demonstrated to generate even fewer of such compounds than other varieties of snuff; 2.8 parts per mil for Ettan brand compared to as high as 127.9 parts per mil in American brands, according to a study by the State of Massachusetts Health Department. It is hypothesized that the widespread use of snus by Swedish men (estimated at 30% of Swedish men, possibly because it is much cheaper than cigarettes), displacing tobacco smoking and other varieties of snuff, is responsible for the incidence of tobacco-related mortality in men being significantly lower in Sweden than any other European country; in contrast, since women are much less likely to use snus, their rate of tobacco-related deaths in Sweden is similar to that in other European countries. Snus is clearly less harmful than other tobacco products; according to Kenneth Warner, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network,
The Swedish government has studied this stuff to death, and to date, there is no compelling evidence that it has any adverse health consequences. ... Whatever they eventually find out, it is dramatically less dangerous than smoking.
Public health researchers maintain that, nevertheless, even the low nitrosamine levels in snus cannot be completely risk free, but snus proponents maintain that inasmuch as snus is used as a substitute for smoking or a means to quit smoking, the net overall effect is positive, similar to the effect of nicotine patches, for instance. Snus is banned in the European Union countries outside of Sweden; although this is officially for health reasons, it is widely regarded as in fact being for economic reasons, since other smokeless tobacco products (mainly from India) associated with much greater risk to health are sold.
Gutka is a tobacco product manufactured and used mainly in India. It contains sweeteners, food coloring and paan flavorings . It is used by constantly chewing without letting the juice go in and subsequently spitting the juice. Resulting in the walls of most public buildings to be covered in red stains called pichkari, especially in areas where males from lower income levels congregate.
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. According to the U.S NIH-sponsored 2002 Smokeless Tobacco Fact Sheet, it is marketed as a dentifrice. The same factsheet also mentions that it is often used to clean teeth. The manufacturer recommends letting the paste linger in the mouth before rinsing.
Tobacco water is a traditional organic insecticide used in domestic gardening.
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