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Tobacco

leaves, smoking, america, tabacum, natives, indians, species, tube, name and commercial

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TOBACCO, the common name applied (1) to plants of the genus Nicotiana, of which there are a large number of species, and (2) to the dried leaves of these plants prepared in various ways for smoking, chewing or snuffing. Originating in America, the use of tobacco has been extended into practically all parts of the world and, indeed, it has come to be incom parably the most generally used of all narcotics. It appears that the name tobacco was derived from the word tabaco, originally employed by the natives of Haiti to designate the tube used by them in smoking or taking snuff and adopted by the Spaniards as the name of the product most generally used in smoking; although other products than true tobacco were taken by the na tives in the form of snuff. The habit-forming properties or narcotic effects of tobacco are due to its content of nicotine and related alkaloids.

The tobacco plant belongs to the family of Solanacem and is thus related to the tomato, potato, eggplant, red pepper and jimson weed. There are some 50 or more species of Nicotiana but only two of these, N. tabacum and N. rustica, are of economic importance. The Indians of western North America, however, held N. quadrivalvis in high esteem for smok ing purposes. Also, N. sylvestris, N. alata and a few others are used to some extent for orna mental purposes. Additional well-known spe cies are glauca, longiflora, glutinosa, trigono phyla. all species of islicotiana are native to America, but N. suavotens appears to be indigenous to Australia. All of the more important commercial t es of tobacco are pro duced from N. tabacum. This is a coarse, rank- - growing annual, reachin three to six feet or more in height. The leaves are simple, alter nately arranged on the stem, very large but quite varied in size, ovate to lanceolate in shape, entire or with wavy margin, petiolated or sessile and decurrent. The number of leaves varies markedly in the different varieties but is not much affected by differences of environ ment. The green portions of the plant are covered with soft hairs either branched or single stalked, some of which are capitate and glandular, secreting a viscid, gummy substance. Stomata occur on both surfaces of the leaf. The inflorescence is a terminal panicle pro ducing large flowers ranging in color from deep red through various shades of pink to white, a light pink being the more common color. Under favorable conditions flowering branches also develop from buds borne in the leaf-axils. The calyx of the flower is bell shaped, four or five-cleft. The corolla tube is funnel-shaped with spreading and pointed lobes. The blossom is normally self-fertilized. The five stamens are attached to the base of the corolla tube. The stigma is capitate. The cap sule is two to four-valved, bearing a very large number of seed. The seed are small, there being 300,000 to 400,000 in an ounce. There are nu merous distinctive varieties of N. tabacum and of the leading commercial varieties there are many sub-varieties or local strains bearing dis tinctive names but usually differing among themselves only in minor details. In some in stances, however, important commercial types of tobacco are produced from mixtures of dis tinct sorts designated collectively by the type name rather than by distinctive varietal names.

This is notably true of Cuban and Turkish tobaccos. N. rustica is an annual with a much branched stem and large, ovate leaves with petiole. The corolla tube of the blossom is cylindrical with rounded lobes and is greenish yellow in color. The seed are about three times the size of those of tabacum. Rustsca is decidedly earlier in maturing than is tabacum. It is not grown commercially ri in America but is extensively cultivated in India and in certain sections of Asia Minor and Russia, and to some extent in other European countries.

History.— Tobacco was widely used by the Indians at the time of the discovery of Amer ica by Columbus and relics of the Mound Builders show that pipe smoking was a very ancient custom among the aborigines. On land ing in the West Indies in 1492 members of Co lumbus' crew observed that the natives smoked rolls of dried tobacco leaves. When the Spaniards landed in Mexico in 1519 they found the natives cultivating tobacco with care and skill. It was believed by them to possess great curative powers for such diseases as bronchitis, asthma and rheumatism. Other aromatic ma terials such as liquidambar were frequently mixed with tobacco for smoking purposes. The natives of the Orinoco forests of Venezuela understood the use of tobacco and the prepara tion and use of tobacco by the natives of Brazil are described in .detail by Andre Thevet who visited that region in 1555. For smoking, the dried leaves were rolled into a small cylinder enclosed in a leaf of corn or palm. Similarly, when Cartier discovered what is now Canada he found the Indians drying tobacco leaves in the sun. The powdered leaves were smoked in pipes made of stone or wood. Early explorers traveling through the interior of the country found the habit of smoking very general among the aborigines from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipe of peace carried by the Indian tribes, which was an elaborately carved and decorated object, was smoked in common by those attending grand councils and was held very sacred. The tobacco cultivated by the Indians of North America to the east of the Mississippi was N. rustica while in Central and South America N. tabacum was the species principally grown. It has already been made clear that the American aborigines used to bacco in the form of cigars and for pipe smok ing and, moreover, it is recorded that chewing the leaf was practised in some sections, while in South America the manufacture of snuff had reached a perfection which in some respects has never been surpassed. Thus, the American Indians had evolved methods of cultivating to bacco and preparing it in all forms which are now used. Finally, it is stated that a great North American tribe which dwelt near Lake Huron engaged in the cultivation of tobacco on a commercial scale, the product being sold to other tribes. According to early authorities, the Spaniards began the culture of tobacco in Haiti prior to 1535. Shortly afterward it was extended to the island of Trinidad whose prod uct soon became famous in Europe. Tobacco culture was soon developed on a large scale in the West Indies and in Venezuela and Brazil.

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