Tobacco Industry

tobacco

tobacco, 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 possible harmful effects of the nicotine, tarry compounds, and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke vary with the individual's tolerance (see smoking).

Cultivation and Curing

The tobacco plant is a coarse, large-leaved perennial, usually cultivated as an annual, grown from seed in cold frames or hotbeds and then transplanted to the field. Tobacco requires a warm climate and rich, well-drained soil. The plant is susceptible to numerous bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases (e.g., the tobacco mosaic virus) and is attacked by several species of worms, beetles, and moths. The characteristics of many of the named grades depend upon the regional environmental conditions and cultivation techniques. Tobacco leaves are picked as they mature, or they are harvested together with the stalk.

Tobacco leaves are cured, fermented, and aged to develop aroma and reduce the harsh, rank odor and taste of fresh leaves. Fire-curing, dating from pre-Columbian times, is done by drying the leaves in smoke; in air-curing, the leaves are hung in well-ventilated structures; in flue-curing, used for over half the total crop, the leaves are dried by radiant heat from flues or pipes connected to a furnace. The cured tobacco is graded, bunched, and stacked in piles called bulks or in closed containers for active fermentation and aging. Most commercial tobaccos are blends of several types, and flavorings (e.g., maple and other sugars) are often added.

World Production

The United States produced nearly 1.7 billion pounds of tobacco in 1997 (about one tenth of world production), of which about 30% was exported; the United States imports some tobacco for special purposes, e.g., Asian cigarette leaf for blending, Puerto Rican tobacco for cigar filler, and cigar-wrapper leaf from Sumatra and Java. In the United States about two thirds of the crop is grown in North Carolina and Kentucky. China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Malawi, and Zimbabwe are the other chief producing countries, and Russia, Japan, and Germany are the major importers.

Early History

The use of tobacco originated among the indigenous inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere in pre-Columbian times. Tobacco was introduced into Spain and Portugal in the mid-16th cent., initially for its supposed virtues as a panacea. It spread to other European countries and then to Asia and Africa, where its use became general in the 17th cent. The first tobacco to reach England was probably a crop harvested in Virginia, where John Rolfe experimented with Spanish types of tobacco seed and introduced tobacco as a crop as early as 1612. By 1619 tobacco had become a leading export of Virginia, where it was later used as a basis of currency.

Classification

Tobacco is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Solanales, family Solanaceae.

Bibliography

See R. Jahn, ed., Tobacco Dictionary (1954); J. C. Robert, The Story of Tobacco in America (1967); E. R. Billings, Tobacco (1875, repr. 1973); I. Gately, Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World (2002); M. Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (2008); B. Hahn, Making Tobacco Bright: Creating an American Commodity, 1617–1937 (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry
Peter Benson.
Princeton University Press, 2012
Peddling Poison: The Tobacco Industry and Kids
Clete Snell.
Praeger, 2005
Tobacco Control Policy: Strategies, Successes, and Setbacks
Joy De Beyer; Linda Waverley Brigden.
World Bank, 2003
Regulating Tobacco
Robert L. Rabin; Stephen D. Sugarman.
Oxford University Press, 2001
Unfiltered: Conflicts over Tobacco Policy and Public Health
Eric A. Feldman; Ronald Bayer.
Harvard University Press, 2004
Has a Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Settlement Helped the Tobacco Industry?
Fowler, Stuart J.; Ford, William F.
Journal of Economics and Finance, Vol. 28, No. 3, Fall 2004
Big Tobacco : Uncovering the Industry's Multibillion-Dollar Global Smuggling Network
Schapiro, Mark.
The Nation, Vol. 274, No. 17, May 6, 2002
Controlling Big Tobacco: The Winning Campaign for Global Tobacco Control Treaty
White, Anna.
Multinational Monitor, Vol. 25, No. 1-2, January-February 2004
Deadly Enemies: Tobacco and Its Opponents in Australia
Ian Tyrrell.
University of New South Wales Press, 1999
Turning over a New Leaf: End of Tobacco Program, Rising Foreign Competition, Thrust Burley Co-Op into New Role
Todd, Anne.
Rural Cooperatives, Vol. 74, No. 1, January-February 2007
Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century
Ann K. Ferrell.
University Press of Kentucky, 2013
The Global Cigarette: Origins and Evolution of British American Tobacco, 1880-1945
Howard Cox.
Oxford University Press, 2000
The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Nannie M. Tilley.
University of North Carolina Press, 1985
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