Tobacco has long been a popular product, both in smokeable and non-smokable forms. It is used as snuff, chewing tobacco, in cigarettes and cigars.
The Evolution of tobacco products was introduced to Europe by early explorers and spread throughout the world as European colonization took hold. Its popularity exploded in the 1920s when manufactured cigarettes became widely available.
Pipe tobacco is smoked through a hand-held pipe, the bowl of which is usually made from such materials as clay, ceramics, corncob or meerschaum (a mineral composed of natural forms of silica). The stem that extends from the bottom of the bowl can be fashioned from a variety of materials including wood, bone, briar or metal. Pipes are often flavored and the smoke they produce is inhaled through the mouth. Pipe smoking is a worldwide practice that was first introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus.
The tobaccos used in pipes are often carefully treated and blended to achieve flavor nuances not available in other products such as cigarettes. A number of different types of tobacco are commonly used in pipe blends, including Virginia (a sweet, light tobacco grown throughout the world), Burley (a dark, earthy tobacco that has been cured using an unusual method), Oriental or Balkan varietals such as Latakia and Perique (fire-cured spice tobacco of Syrian origin).
Many of the same flavoring techniques that are applied to cigarette tobacco are also used with pipe tobacco, but the results are often much more subtle. This is largely due to the fact that most people who smoke pipes do not inhale as heavily as cigarette smokers and it is not uncommon for the smoke to pass through the throat and into the sinuses, making the results less intense than they might be with a more vigorous inhalation.
As with cigarette smoking, there are health risks associated with pipe smoking. Smokers are at higher risk for lung cancer and have a greater likelihood of developing various other types of cancer, including those of the head, mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver. Regular pipe and cigar smoking increases the risk of heart disease as well.
While the popularity of tobacco-derived from the Americas has declined, there is still a small but dedicated population of pipe smokers throughout the world. The smoking of tobacco through a pipe dates back thousands of years and was probably a common ritual for Native Americans. It became a favored practice of Europeans after the early 1600s, and was introduced to England by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1586.
Cigarettes were developed in the 19th Century, as a way to smoke tobacco that was easier than using chewing tobacco and inhaling snuff. Previously most people smoked cigars or pipes, but the invention of the cigarette caused smoking rates to rise dramatically and rapidly (DHHS 2000b). Smoking among women grew especially quickly as many smokers shifted from other forms of tobacco consumption.
Cigs are made from a mixture of ground or flaked tobacco and are then hand or machine-rolled into a cylindrical shape. They have a filter and are then wrapped in a paper tube to protect it from dirt or dust while it is stored or transported. The filter, which is usually made from cellulose acetate, reduces the amount of nicotine and other harmful chemicals that are inhaled. Most factory-made cigarettes are equipped with a filter, but those who roll their own may purchase them separately. The remaining portion of the cigarette is called a ‘butt’, and it consists of the remaining tobacco, a piece of discarded paper, and ash.
Originally, cigarettes were not inhaled; however, as tobacco leaf varieties became milder and less acidic, the practice of inhalation started to spread. By the 1930s, articles on the health effects of smoking began to appear in medical journals. In response, the tobacco industry started mass-marketing filtered cigarettes and low-tar formulations that promised a ‘healthier’ smoke.
Although smoking tobacco became widespread, it was never universally accepted. In England King James 1 referred to it as a “barbarous custom” and the Catholic Church was not above sanctioning the execution of anyone caught smoking during a service.
Despite these early and ongoing efforts to control the use of tobacco, it remained immensely popular throughout much of the world. As the world’s economies grew, the production and marketing of tobacco products became globalized. Despite this, local factors still influence tobacco production, the quality and composition of the smoke produced by smoking it, and the level of harm caused by it. For example, the length of a cigarette, its circumference, its cut, and the packing density all modify free nicotine levels in cigarette smoke; the agronomic characteristics of tobacco plantations and soil conditions also affect nutrient accumulations (Callicutt et al. 2006; Stevenson and Proctor 2008).
Long before the first European explorers set foot in America, the Native Americans cultivated and enjoyed tobacco. They smoked it, sniffed it and chewed it. Today, oral tobacco use remains popular, especially in Latin America and Scandinavia. It can be consumed in the form of snus or moist snuff. It can be dipped or “snorted,” as the Swedes do it, or it can be chewed, which is probably the oldest and most universal method of tobacco consumption.
A popular story explains that smoking tobacco was introduced by a Native American shaman who wanted to create rain. His tribe was suffering from a drought, and the shaman believed that by sending tobacco smoke skywards he could create the rain his people needed. The story may be a myth, but it illustrates the omnipresent power of tobacco in tribal culture.
It was not until after the Civil War that smoking of cigars and cigarettes became prevalent in the United States. Until then, people enjoyed the flavor and aroma of tobacco more through chewing or snuff.
Chewing tobacco, called khuni, is one of the most popular smokless tobacco products in India and is widely used in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. It is a wet preparation of finely shredded tobacco leaf dust mixed with areca nuts, slaked lime and catechu (red soil). It is rubbed over the teeth and gums and chewed or sucked.
The Indian snuff, called bidi, is similar to khuni and contains finely shredded tobacco leaves and slaked lime. It is held in the mouth and sucked, often for 10 to 15 minutes. This preparation is also flavored with spices and other ingredients.
Cigarette sales have been on a steady decline since the early 1900s, when they were still not very popular in most countries, especially in Europe and Scandinavia. Oral consumption of tobacco, however, has remained fairly stable, especially in Sweden where it is the preferred method of tobacco intake. The tobacco industry has tried to counter the trend by promoting its products as healthy alternatives to smoking cigarettes.
Snuff, also called nasal snuff, is a form of smokeless tobacco that is inhaled into the nose rather than chewed or smoked. Its use goes back to the 17th century, when finely ground tobacco was first used in The Americas. The earliest tobacco-related artifacts, such as snuffing instruments, suggest that snuff was originally sniffed or blown into the nose. It was a popular choice among the gentry, who often waxed poetic about its own palette of scents and its ability to drown out unpleasant smells. Snuff was also blown into warriors’ faces before battle, over fields before planting (it was thought to repel insects), and even into women’s noses during sex.
Inhaling powdered snuff became popular in Europe after the 15th century, when Jean Nicot brought tobacco plants back from Portugal and taught Catherine de Medici how to prepare a snuff-like preparation from them, which she reportedly inhaled to prevent headaches. It was then introduced to America by John Rolfe, husband of Pochahontas, in 1611. Huguenot Pierre Lorillard established a snuff mill in New York City in 1730, and carefully guarded the recipe for his product.
Moist snuff is made from finely ground tobacco, which may be either air- or fire-cured, and it may contain up to 50% moisture. It is usually flavored with attars of flowers, including rose, lavender, cloves and jasmine. It is typically packaged in small pouches for easy consumption and held between the cheek and gum tissues, where it is inhaled. Saliva is often swallowed, although it is sometimes spat out.
Its popularity continued to rise throughout the 1700s, reaching its peak during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14). She was known as ‘Snuffy Charlotte’, and her husband George III kept an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to snuff stock. Other famous snuff users included Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Disraeli and Alexander Pope. In times of diplomatic intrigue, poisons were sometimes placed in snuff to be used against enemies or rivals.
In the 1960s and 1970s, moist snuff began to die out in the United States, as younger men preferred other forms of smokeless tobacco. It was not until the early 1980s that intensive advertising and marketing by Swedish Match, a leading snuff producer, revitalized this type of snuff. This led to a gradual increase in its use and its popularity continues to grow today.