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Tobacco 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.

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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 tobacco. 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 disease. 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, the Surgeon General has warned that smoking is a health hazard this announcement promoted the U.S. Public Health Service and The American Cancer Society to publicize the dangers of tobacco smoking, and offer suggestions to those trying to quit. Cigarette packages were required to carry the warning ” may be hazardous to health.” Later the wording was strengthened to read ” Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.” The reason cigarette smokers do not give up this harmful habit easily is simple; Nicotine is a highly addictive substance like many other drugs. Smokers are hooked as surely as is any heroin or cocaine addict; giving up cigarettes creates painful withdrawal symptoms and a craving that many people cannot overcome. The Public Health Service has declared cigarettes and tobacco to be our most common form of drug dependency.

Researchers discovered that nicotine is carried to the brain via the bloodstream within a minute or two of smoking; it’s then eliminated about a half-hour later, and then the craving returns. Scientists and farmers have long known that nicotine is a deadly poison. They use a concentrated spray of the chemical, extracted from tobacco leaves as a potent insecticide. In humans, nicotine constricts the blood vessels, decreasing blood circulation to the skin and vital organs. Long term smokers tend to look much older than non-smokers- a result of the contraction of the capillaries on the skins surface, which prevents absorption of tissue building nutrients.

Furthermore, smokers afflicted with arterial hardening and cholesterol deposits suffer a significantly higher number of heart attacks than non-smokers. The damaged blood vessels give way sooner, when shriveled by nicotine. Until the early 1900’s tobacco was usually chewed, inhaled as snuff, or smoked in cigars and pipes without being inhaled. In other words, nicotine was being absorbed into the bloodstream through the membranes of the mouth, nose, and bronchial passages, not through the lungs. The invention of cigarette paper and automatic rolling machinery changed all that, and soon tobacco users were puffing away on white wrapped sticks of tobacco.

This introduced new toxins deep into the body, known collectively as “tar”. These toxins are byproducts of the combustion of paper, tobacco, and chemicals in tobacco processing. The most lethal byproduct inhaled from burning tobacco is benzopyrene; a carcinogenic chemical also emitted by automobile exhaust pipes and factory smokestacks. In numerous tests, benzopyrene has been applied to the respiratory tracts of laboratory animals, and has usually resulted in malignant tumors. The leading killer among all forms of cancers, lung cancer currently claims about 140,000 victims annually. The American Cancer Society estimates that 87% of lung cancer deaths could be avoided if only people would stop smoking.

Lung cancer isn’t the only concern. The chemical irritants absorbed into the blood are excreted almost unchanged in the urine, and they can lead to the development of cancer of the kidneys, prostate glands, and bladder. The last 10 years have seen a shift inner awareness of the dangers of smoking. While we have known for three decades that smoking is a leading cause of cancer death, we have finally acknowledged that second hand smoke can cause the same problems as firsthand smoke. In early 1993, in fact, the EPA classified second hand smoke a Class A carcinogen. That label means Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is every bit as potent as arsenic, asbestos, and radon in its ability to cause cancer.

In 1988, following years of study, the Surgeon General stated that sidetream smoke could be d …


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