Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, it is used in some medicines. It is most commonly used as a recreational drug, and is a valuable cash crop for countries such as Cuba, China and United States.
In consumption it most commonly appears in the forms of smoking, chewing, snuffing, or dipping tobacco, or snus. Tobacco has long been in use as an entheogen in the Americas. However, upon the arrival of Europeans in North America, it quickly became popularized as a trade item and as a recreational 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, until the scientific controversy of the mid-1900s.
There are many[quantify] 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 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, however they 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, sniffing, and so on.
The Spanish word "tabaco" is thought to have its origin in Arawakan language, particularly, in the Taino language of the Caribbean. In Taino, it was said to refer either to a roll of tobacco 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; with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba).
However, similar words in Spanish and Italian were commonly used from 1410 to define medicinal herbs, originating from the Arabic طبق tabbaq, a word reportedly dating to the 9th century, as the name of various herbs.
Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas when European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became popular. Members of all Native American tribes traditionally used tobacco. It was often consumed as an entheogen; among some tribes, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men. Eastern North American tribes carried large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item, and often smoked it in peace pipes, either in defined sacred ceremonies, or to seal a bargain, and they smoked it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood. It was believed that tobacco is a gift from the Creator, and that the exhaled tobacco smoke carries one's thoughts and prayers to heaven.