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Health Library – A Tobacco Information Guide

Tobacco addiction is probably the most common form of substance abuse. Tobacco is an agricultural product that comes from the leaves of plants in the Nicotiana genus. Tobacco is related to garden vegetables, weeds, flowers, and poisonous herbs such as tomatoes, potatoes, petunias, and eggplant. This family of plants is Solanaceae, and the genus Nicotiana contains about 100 species. Nicotiana tabacam is found in cigarettes and tobacco and is the predominant form of crop tobacco.

Although tobacco is mostly recognized for its addictive properties, it also has medicinal and herbal uses. Tobacco abuse occurs when the product is used as a recreational drug in the form of smoking, snuffing also known as dipping, or even chewing.

Tobacco has been around for a very long time. It is believed that early American Indians were using tobacco for its medicinal properties to dress wounds, heal various illnesses as well as to reduce pain. However, it was Christopher Columbus who is credited with bringing the tobacco plant to Europe. Eric Burns in The Smoke of the Gods writes, “Some historians believe Columbus brought it back with him, that it was one of the assembled treasures…” Tobacco reached England at a relatively slow pace. Burns credits Sir John Hawkins, a sea captain and slave trader, with the first delivery of tobacco to England around the middle of the 16th century.

The endorsement of tobacco by Sir Walter Raleigh, a warrior and explorer with close relations with the Queen, led to it being accepted and used widely through England’s social circles.  According to an article on the history of tobacco published by the University of Dayton, during the 1600’s tobacco was even used as money. In 1760, P. Lorillard (currently the oldest U.S. tobacco company) was established in New York City. The popularity of cigarettes and cigars grew when in 1913, R.J Reynolds began to market a cigarette brand called Camel setting in motion a revolution of sorts in the tobacco industry. (from the University of Dayton website)

The use of tobacco and its impact on society became a matter of concern in the 1960s and ‘70s when cigarette packs started carrying health warnings, cigarette ads were taken off the air in the U.S and Britain and there were reports from the Surgeon-General’s office on the health risks of smoking to men and women. According to Collins and Lampsley in a publication on The Economic Impact of Smoking, the social costs of smoking include tangible costs such as health care, production losses, fires and accidents, pollution and litter while the intangible costs include loss of life by both smokers and passive smokers and pain and suffering of smokers, passive smokers and others.

From an economic point of view as well, tobacco and its use have had major impacts. Tobacco use is closely linked to a host of illnesses that affect health, productivity and overall employment. Moreover, even though the tobacco industry repeatedly argues that it provides employment, contributes to the tax system and therefore, works for the economy, it really isn’t so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the cost of second hand smoke in the United States alone is more than $10 billion in health care expenditures.

According to a discussion paper published by CorpWatch, “…the Centers for Disease Control and the University of California estimated that in 1993 the health care cost of tobacco related disease was at least $50 billion, or $2.06 per pack, which exceeded the 56 cents tax revenue per pack earned as income… So, in the U.S. even though the Tobacco Industry is responsible for raising $11 billion in tax funds it still doesn’t come close to paying for the government Medicare payments to cover tobacco-related illnesses which cost taxpayers $16 billion…”

Finally, the health risks associated with tobacco are evident and much publicized. Tobacco use is related to conditions such as heart and lung diseases, oral and other types of cancers as well as being responsible for premature death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year” and “ Current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030”. These figures are worrisome and therefore, it is not surprising that tobacco control and advocacy groups are fighting to put controls that are more stringent in place.

Learning about tobacco, its use and abuse are just some of the ways in which people can control tobacco addiction and help others to overcome it. Here are some useful and important resources on tobacco, its addiction and treatment.

  • History of Tobacco: A chronological account of the discovery, growth and spread of tobacco and its hazards.
  • All About Smoking: A comprehensive article with links to information on smoking, tobacco addiction, health risks and treatment.
  • Information on Smoking: A detailed resource on smoking statistics, tobacco addiction, health risks and treatment.
  • Tobacco Addiction and Oral Cancer Risks: Learn how tobacco use can increase the risk for oral cancer.
  • Effects of Tobacco: A description of the short-term and long-term effects of tobacco addiction.
  • Smoking and Tobacco Statistics: A comprehensive article on smoking and tobacco production statistics.
  • Nicotine Addiction: Detailed information on nicotine addiction, effects, symptoms and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Smoking and Kids: An informative article on the perils of nicotine addiction and the youth.
  • How to Quit Smoking: Article with further links on the why and how of quitting smoking.
  • Teens and Tobacco Addiction: The facts about tobacco and nicotine addiction, including information on street names, tobacco uses and other details.
  • Tobacco and Cancer: A Q &A factsheet on the link between smokeless tobacco and cancer. Also has information on help resources and statistics.
  • New Age Tobacco Products: The latest tobacco products designed to evade social control. Includes information on tobacco dissolvables, cigarettes packaged as lipsticks and a variety of other items.
  • Addressing Tobacco Addiction in Youth: Detailed document on how to address the problem of tobacco addiction in adolescents.
  • Tobacco and Tuberculosis: Learn about the link between tobacco use and tuberculosis with facts, figures and steps to take.
  • Health Risks of Tobacco: Information on the health risks of smokeless tobacco, smoking and second hand smoke.
  • Tobacco Facts for Kids: Easy-to-understand information with further links on tobacco, its effects and the damage it causes.
  • Tobacco Addiction Fact Sheet: Detailed facts on tobacco abuse and how to control it.
  • Oral Cancer Facts: Facts about oral cancer, its relationship with smoking and smokeless tobacco and possible signs and symptoms.
  • Tobacco and Kids: An organization working to create a tobacco-free society for kids. Includes links to projects, initiatives and reports.