Tobacco

Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines. It is most commonly used as a drug, and is a valuable cash crop for countries such as Cuba, India, China, and the United States. Tobacco is a name for any plant of the genus Nicotiana of the Solanaceae family (nightshade family) and for the product manufactured from the leaf and used in cigars and cigarettes, snuff, and pipe and chewing tobacco. Tobacco plants are also used in plant bioengineering, and some of the 60 species are grown as ornamentals. The chief commercial species, N. tabacum, is believed native to tropical America, like most nicotiana plants, but has been so long cultivated that it is no longer known in the wild. N. rustica, a mild-flavored, fast-burning species, was the tobacco originally raised in Virginia, but it is now grown chiefly in Turkey, India, and Russia. The alkaloid nicotine is the most characteristic constituent of tobacco and is responsible for its addictive nature. The harmful effects of tobacco derive from the thousands of different compounds generated in the smoke, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzpyrene), formaldehyde, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, radioactive polonium-210, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), phenols, and many others.

In consumption it most commonly appears in the forms of smoking, chewing, snuffing, or dipping tobacco. Tobacco had long been in use as an entheogen in the Americas, but upon the arrival of Europeans in North America, it quickly became popularized as a trade item and a widely-abused 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. There are more than 70 species of tobacco in the plant genus Nicotiana. The word nicotiana (as well as nicotine) is in honor of Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who in 1559 sent it as a medicine to the court of Catherine de Medici.

Because of the powerfully 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(WHO) 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, but 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, snuffing, and so on. Most cigarettes incorporate flue-cured tobacco, which produces a milder, more inhalable smoke. Use of low-pH, inhalable, flue-cured tobacco is one of the principal reasons smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases association with smoke inhalation.

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Famous quotes containing the word tobacco:

    There’s nothing quite like tobacco: it’s the passion of decent folk, and whoever lives without tobacco doesn’t deserve to live.
    Molière [Jean Baptiste Poquelin] (1622–1673)

    You and I both know that Twinkies don’t kill people.... The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies ... is death. The tobacco industry should know: When it comes to Twinkies, I’d rather fight than quit.
    Henry Waxman (b. 1939)

    My excuse for not lecturing against the use of tobacco is, that I never chewed it; that is a penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay; though there are things enough I have chewed which I could lecture against.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)