Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves that are smoked, chewed, or
sniffed for a variety of effects. It is considered an addictive substance
because it contains the chemical nicotine.
The tobacco plant is believed to have originated in the Western
Hemisphere. The cultivated species most often grown for North American and
European tobacco products is Nicotine Tabacum. The leaves of the plant are
prepared for smoking, chewing, or sniffing. In addition nicotine tobacco
contains over 45 carcinogens and more than 4,000 chemicals.
Prior to European influence in the Americas, the Indians of Mexico and
Peru used tobacco for the ceremonies, medical purposes and to alleviate
hunger pains during famines. Columbus is credited with introducing tobacco
into Europe. Tobacco use became widely accepted by the Portuguese, Spanish,
French, British, and Scandinavians. Explorers and sailors who became
dependent upon tobacco began planting seeds at their ports of call,
introducing the product into other parts of Europe and Asia.
The colonist introduced tobacco on the American continent in the early
1600\'s. It became a major crop and trading commodity of the Jamestown
Colony. Over the years tobacco has been claimed as a cure for a wide range of
ailments with varying forms of administration. Its social importance also
grew over the years, even the point of denoting the "modern women" during the
1st part of the twentieth century.
It was not until the 1960\'s, with the introduction of medical research
related to cigarette smoking that the adverse health effects of the tobacco
became widely publicized. Unfortunately, most of the health hazards were only
associated with cigarette smoking. While the number of cigarette smokers in
the United States has continually decreased over recent years the number of
smokeless tobacco users has steadily increased. Since the 1970\'s a 15-fold
increase in smokeless tobacco has been noted in adolescents 17 to 19 years
old. This has most likely been related to the emphasis on smoke free
environments, availability, increased advertising of smokeless products, and
the false belief that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative for those
convinced they should stop smoking but who still want the nicotine effects of
Although over 40 million people in the United States have quit
smoking, about 50 million continue to smoke (about 25% of the population).
Each year, approximately 1.3 million Americans quit smoking. In addition
about two thirds of current smokers report they have never tried to quit.
About 30 to 40% of those who have not tried to quit say they do not believe
that the health risks of smoking will ultimately decrease their risks for
Young men are at highest risk for using tobacco products but the
incidence in women is increasing. Smokeless tobacco use patterns are higher
within the following occupations; athletes, ranchers, farmers, fishermen,
lumberjacks, and industrial workers, who have jobs requiring hand freedom.
Nicotine has both stimulant and depressant effects upon the body.
Bowel tone and activity increases along with saliva and bronchial secretions.
Stimulation is followed with a phase that depresses the respiratory muscles.
As an euphoric agent, nicotine causes arousal as well as relaxation from
stressful situations. On the average, tobacco use increases the heart rate 10
to 20 beats per minute and it increases the blood pressure reading by 5 to 10
millimeters of mercury (because it constricts the blood vessels). Nicotine
may also increase sweating, nausea and diarrhea because of its effects on the
central nervous system. Nicotine\'s effect upon hormonal activities is also
present. It elevates the blood level of glucose and increases insulin
production. Nicotine also tends to enhance platelet aggregation, which may
lead to blood clotting.
The positive effects of nicotine upon the body should also be noted.
It stimulates memory and alertness, enhancing cognitive skills that requires
speed, reaction time and work performance. As a mood-altering agent, it tends
to alleviate boredom, reduces stress, and reduces aggressive responses to
stressful events. It also tends to be an appetite suppressant specifically
decreasing the appetite for simple carbohydrates and disturbs the efficiency
with which food is metabolized. People who use tobacco products frequently
depend upon it to provide these side effects to help them accomplish certain
tasks at specific levels.
With all the information that is out today why do people continue to
smoke? Since 1964,