2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Plants

Nicotiana tabacum
Nicotiana tabacum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Nicotiana

Nicotiana acuminata
Nicotiana alata
Nicotiana attenuata
Nicotiana benthamiana
Nicotiana clevelandii
Nicotiana excelsior
Nicotiana forgetiana
Nicotiana glauca
Nicotiana glutinosa
Nicotiana langsdorffii
Nicotiana longiflora
Nicotiana obtusifolia
Nicotiana paniculata
Nicotiana plumbagifolia
Nicotiana quadrivalvis
Nicotiana repanda
Nicotiana rustica
Nicotiana sylvestris
Nicotiana tabacum
Nicotiana tomentosa
Ref: ITIS 30562
as of August 26, 2005

Tobacco (Nicotiana spp., L.) refers to a genus of short-leafed plants of the nightshade family indigenous to North and South America, or to the dried and sharp leaves of such plants. Tobacco 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. This can damage the lungs and can also potentially cause lung disorders such as asthma. Tobacco is also chewed, "dipped" (placed between the cheek and gum), and sniffed into the nose as finely powdered snuff. Most tobacco smokers and other users become habituated and use every day.

Tobacco contains 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 user's 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 small 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 alkaloids.

Long term tobacco smoking carries significant risks including the potential to develop various cancers as well as strokes, and severe cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Significantly shorter life expectancies have been associated with tobacco smoking. Many jurisdictions have enacted smoking bans in an effort to minimize possible damage to public health caused by tobacco smoking. The substantially increased risk of developing cancer as a result of tobacco usage seems to be due to the plethora of nitrosamines and other carcinogenic compounds found in tobacco and its residue as a result of anaerobic heating, either due to smoking or to flue-curing or fire-curing. The use of flue-cured or fire-cured smokeless tobacco in lieu of smoked tobacco reduces the risk of respiratory cancers but still carries significant risk of oral cancer. In contrast, use of steam-cured chewing tobacco (snus), avoids the carcinogenicity by not generating nitrosamines, but the negative effects of the nicotine on the cardiovascular system and pancreas are not ameliorated.

Tobacco plants
Tobacco plants


Native American Tobacco flower and buds
Native American Tobacco flower and buds

Native Americans used tobacco before Europeans arrived in North & South America, and early European settlers in North & South 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.

With the arrival of Europeans, tobacco became one of the primary products fueling the colonization of the future American South, long before the creation of the United States. The initial colonial expansion, fueled by the desire to increase tobacco production, was one cause of the first colonial conflicts with Native Americans and became a driving factor for the use of African slaves' labor.

In 1609, John Rolfe arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. He is credited as the first man to successfully raise tobacco for commercial use 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 wouldn't touch the tobacco crop, Rolfe was able to make his fortune farming it for export at Varina Farms Plantation. When he left for England with Pocahontas, he was wealthy. When Rolfe returned to Jamestown following Pocahontas's 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 Jamestown's population would top 4,000. Tobacco led to the importation of the colony's first black slaves as well as women from England in 1619.

This 1670 painting shows enslaved Africans working in the tobacco sheds of a colonial tobacco plantation
This 1670 painting shows enslaved Africans working in the tobacco sheds of a colonial tobacco plantation

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) wrote a famous polemic titled A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604 (published in 1672). 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, along with The Carolinas. 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.

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown:

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.

As a lucrative crop, tobacco has been the subject of a great deal of biological and genetic research. The economic impact of Tobacco Mosaic disease was the impetus that led to the isolation of Tobacco mosaic virus, the first virus to be identified; the fortunate coincidence that it is one of the simplest virii and can self-assemble from purified nucleic acid and protein led in turn to the rapid advancement of the field of virology. The 1946 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared by Wendell Meredith Stanley for his 1935 work crystallizing the virus, and showing that it still remains active.


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 the "tabago", a kind of y-shaped pipe for sniffing tobacco smoke (according to Oviedo, the leaves themselves were referred to as Cohiba, but Sp. tabaco (also It. tobacco) was commonly used to define medicinal herbs from 1410, originating from the Arabic "tabbaq", reportedly since the 9th century, as the name of various herbs. The word might then be European, and later applied to this plant from the Americas.


Top Ten Tobacco Producers - 2005
(million metric ton)
Flag of People's Republic of China China 2.51
Flag of Brazil Brazil 0.88
Flag of India India 0.60
Flag of United States United States 0.29
Flag of Indonesia Indonesia 0.14
Flag of Turkey Turkey 0.14
Flag of Greece Greece 0.12
Flag of Argentina Argentina 0.12
Flag of Italy Italy 0.11
Flag of Pakistan Pakistan 0.08
World Total 6.38
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)


Tobacco 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 fabric 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 (together with the use of licorice and other additives) 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.


Basma leaves drying in the sun at Pomak village of Xanthi, Greece
Basma leaves drying in the sun at Pomak village of Xanthi, Greece

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" or "pulling" are terms for pulling leaves off tobacco. 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. Originally workers cropped the tobacco and placed it on mule-pulled sleds. Eventually tractors with wagons were used to transport leaves to the stringer, an apparatus which uses twine to sew leaves onto a stick .

Some farmers use "tobacco harvesters" - 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 their 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. Interestingly, 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. Water tanks are a common feature on the harvester due to heat, and danger of dehydration for the workers. Salt tablets sometimes get used as well.


Pests of tobacco include the moths Endoclita excrescens, Manduca sexta (the Tobacco hornworm), and Manduca quinquemaculata. Other Lepidoptera whose larvae use tobacco as a food plant include Angle Shades, Cabbage Moth, Mouse Moth, Nutmeg Moth, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Turnip Moth. The dry tobacco leaves and cigarettes are sometimes used as food for the Cigarette Beetle (Lasioderma serricorne).


Myrtleford, Victoria, Australia: historic tobacco kiln
Myrtleford, Victoria, Australia: historic tobacco kiln

Cut plants or pulled leaves are immediately transferred to tobacco barns (kiln houses), 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 weeks. 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 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. Traditional curing barns in the U.S. are falling into disuse, as the trend toward more efficient prefabricated metal "bulk bars", allows greater efficiency. 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.

Unaged or low quality tobacco is often flavoured with these naturally occurring compounds. Tobacco flavoring is a significant part of a multi-million dollar industry.

The aging process continues for a period of months and often extends into the post-curing process.

Post-cure processing

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.


Aromatic Fire-cured

Aromatic 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. 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.

Another fire-cured tobacco is "Latakia" and 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. Latakia has a pronounced flavor and a very distinctive smoky aroma, and is used in Balkan and English-style pipe tobacco blends.

Mowing young tobacco in greenhouse of half million plants Hemingway, South Carolina
Mowing young tobacco in greenhouse of half million plants Hemingway, South Carolina

Brightleaf tobacco

Also commonly known as "Virginia tobacco". 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 didn't come until 1854.

Brightleaf tobacco leaf ready for harvest. When it turns yellow-green the sugar content is at its peak, and it will cure to a deep golden color with mild taste.The leaves are harvested progressively up the stem from the base, as they ripen.
Brightleaf tobacco leaf ready for harvest. When it turns yellow-green the sugar content is at its peak, and it will cure to a deep golden colour with mild taste.The leaves are harvested progressively up the stem from the base, as they ripen.

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.

Tobacco blossom: longtitudinal section Hemingway, South Carolina
Tobacco blossom: longtitudinal section Hemingway, South Carolina

White burley

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 colour. 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.

Shade tobacco

It is not well known that the northern US state of Connecticut is also one of the important tobacco-growing regions of the country. 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 world's 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 1755, 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 merely a few barrelsful.

It is traditionally a pipe tobacco, and is still very popular with pipe-smokers, typically blended with pure Virginia to lend spice, strength, and coolness to the blend. 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.

Oriental Tobacco

Oriental tobacco is a sun-cured, highly aromatic, small-leafed variety that is grown in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Oriental tobacco is frequently referred to as "Turkish tobacco", as these regions were all historically part of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the early brands of cigarettes were made mostly or entirely of Oriental 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 Oriental).

Tobacco products


Copenhagen snuff tin
Copenhagen snuff tin

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 factory.

European (dry) snuff is intended to be sniffed up the nose. Snuff is not "snorted" due to the fact that snuff shouldn't 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), McChrystal's (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 allergens 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 practice is known as "dipping." In the Southern states, taking a "dip" of moist snuff is called "putting a rub in," the moist snuff in the mouth is known as a "rub." This is occasionally referred to as " snoose" in New England and the Midwest and is 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. Snuff is also called a "ding" in New England (i.e. "Packing a ding"). 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, Timber Wolf, Chisholm, Grizzly, and Kodiak. 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.

It has been suggested by The Economist magazine that the ban on smoking tobacco indoors in some areas, such as Britain and New York City, may lead to a resurgence in the popularity of snuff as an alternative to tobacco smoking. Although the large-scale closure of British mines in the 1980s deprived the snuff industry of its major market since snuff became unfashionable (miners took snuff underground instead of smoking to avoid lethal explosions and fires), sales at Britain's largest snuff retailer have reportedly been rising at about 5% per year.

Chewing tobacco

Mail Pouch Barn advertisement: A bit of Americana in southern Ohio. Mail Pouch painted the barns for free.
Mail Pouch Barn advertisement: A bit of Americana in southern Ohio. Mail Pouch painted the barns for free.

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 flavours 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. Originally devised by sailors due to fire hazards of smoking at sea; and 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, Moore's 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 sometimes cut, but more often bite off a piece 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. It is 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, Mail Pouch and Southern Pride. 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 with the use of a special tool. It is sometimes packaged in small bags, suitable for placing inside the upper lip, called "portion snuff". In the United States, the Skoal brand of moist snuff distributes a similar product, packed with standard american moist snuff, often flavored with fruits or liquors; these small bags are called "Skoal Bandits." These small bags keep the loose tobacco from becoming lodged between the user's teeth; they also generate less spittle when in contact with mucous membranes inside the mouth which extends the usage time of the tobacco product.

Since it is not smoked, snuff in general generates less of the nitrosamines and other carcinogens in the tar that forms from the partially anaerobic reactions in the smoldering smoked tobacco. The steam curing of snus rather than fire-curing or flue-curing of other smokeless tobaccos 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 (regular snus, not portion, is allowed in Denmark and snus is also becoming a regular among Norwegians, as cigarettes are seen by Norwegian popular culture as untrendy and much more unhealthy than snus). Although this is officially for health reasons, it is widely regarded, in fact, as being for economic reasons, since other smokeless tobacco products (mainly from India) associated with much greater risk to health are sold too.

Although it lacks the carcinogenicity of high levels of nitrosamines, however, any harmful effects of nicotine will still be seen with snus usage. Current research concentrates on nicotine's effect on the circulatory system and on the pancreas.

On June 11, 2006, Reynolds Tobacco announced that it would be test marketing Camel brand snus in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas by the end of the month. The product would be manufactured in Sweden, in conjunction with British American Tobacco, manufacturers of BAT snus. gawith apricot snuff


Gutka pouches on sale.
Gutka pouches on sale.

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 swallowing the juices and then spitting the juices out once the mouth is full of the liquid. This results 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

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. 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

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.

Basque angulero fishermen kill immature eels (elvers) in an infusion of tobacco leaves before parboiling them in salty water for transportation to market as angulas, a seasonal delicacy.

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