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An Introduction
Tobacco is an end product of the tobacco leaf, Nicotiana tabacum where the dried and cured leaves of the plant are used for making tobacco products. Tobacco for cigarettes is mainly derived from two main leaf varieties, Virginia, a yellowish 'bright' leaf, having nearly 3% nicotine and 'burley' tobacco having higher amounts of nicotine. Cuba is known for the high quality of the tobacco produced. Tobacco can be inhaled using cigarettes cigars, stem pipes, bongs, and hookahs. One can chew it or sniff it in powdered form or even consume it dipped. Tobacco has been said to be useful in healing wounds, treating gastric disorders, and it is said to be a stimulant for increasing the feelings of mental relaxation, alertness and creativity.


Worldwide, tobacco is recognized as the second largest cause of death. It is said that one cigarette reduces the life of a person by seven minutes. Tobacco is addictive and hallucenogenic. Tobacco is associated with a high risk of cancers including lung, larynx, throat, esophagus, pancreas, and colon-rectal cancers. It is further responsible for coronary artery disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, strokes, sinus disease and chronic obstructive lung disease. In view of the dangers of the tobacco products to the health of the ordinary citizens, the governments of various countries have instituted various stringent laws for restricting its usage. In fact, Bhutan has banned the use of tobacco products.

History of the Use of Tobacco
The word nicotine is derived from the name of Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal who had sent it as medicine for Catherine of Medici. The tobacco crop has been grown in various parts of the world and since 3000 BC, it has been used in native American culture as a part of religious ceremonies and even for recreational purposes. In the Americas, the native medicine men would utilize it and it was also used in conducting trade. It was venerated as a god sent gift and even used by children in these cultures. Tobacco cultivation increased to a larger scale and partly, led to the rise of the African slave culture The European arrival led to the spread of the practice in Europe particularly by the Spanish. The Europeans also recognized the plant for its various medicinal properties. Francis Drake brought the first "Virginia" tobacco or tobah to Europe in 1578.

Increasingly, the dangers of the tobacco were perceived and, particularly, its negative effects on the lungs and brain. Heavy tariffs were imposed on the import of tobacco products. The tobacco variety from Virginia was not popular in Europe and a different variety from Bermuda became more popular. The area of Jamestown became a centre for the tobacco products and it remained the favored cash crop from the region. From Europe, it spread to the Middle East where it attained great popularity and was also used as for its medicinal value. With the civil war in America, the tobacco products like cigarettes became popular. Cigarettes have higher levels of nicotine as compared to other tobacco products.


Tobacco Cultivation
An annual crop, the cultivation of tobacco is similar to that of other agricultural products. The seeds are spread out randomly on the ground. The tobacco is grown in cold frames or hotbeds and their germination takes place under adequately lighted areas. On reaching the stage of maturity, they are transplanted onto the fields and mineral apatite is used to fertilize the tobacco growing areas to bring out the final tobacco products in all its flavors. Use of mineral apatite has been criticized as it contains high amounts of radium which is carcinogenic in nature. Several types of tobacco are produced in various parts of the world and tobacco is harvested in several different ways. During one method, the entire plant is pulled out at any one point and used for producing tobacco products, while another method involves the selective choice of ripe individual leaves. Tobacco leaves ripen

from the ground upwards and go through several pullings where the flower is removed before the leaves. The leaves undergo a curing process whereby an aromatic flavor is produced.

A caramelization process is used to enhance the flavors. Advanced glycation end products are produced and this component is carcinogenic in quality. The amount of AGE's present is dependent on the curing process used. Tobacco is, generally, available in dried, cured and unprocessed varieties. Tobacco is cured in several ways. Air cured tobaccos, fire cured tobacco, flue cured tobacco and sun-cured tobacco are some of the types of tobaccos. Low in sugar and high in nicotine, the air cured tobacco is hung in well ventilated barns for several weeks. Cigar and burley are types of air cured tobacco products. Pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff are fire cured variety of tobacco, where hardwoods are used and are kept on low continuous fires. Hung on tobacco sticks, flue cured tobacco takes a week of preparation and contains higher levels of nicotine. Sun-cured tobacco is used in cigarettes and in the Mediterranean region.


Types of Tobacco
Tobacco products include the following processed varieties of items:

  • Chewing tobacco is one of the oldest methods of consuming tobacco where the tobacco is placed between the gum and teeth
  • Creamy snuff is also known as "mishri". This is composed of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint and camphor and is used as
    a toothpaste in India
  • Dipping tobacco is a smokeless variety and forms a part of category of chewing tobacco
  • Gutka is highly popular in India and it includes crushed betel nut, tobacco, and various sweet or savory flavorings
  • Snuff is a finely powdered smokeless tobacco product which originated in England. There are two varieties of snuff , namely
    the European (dry) and American (moist) varieties
  • Snus is a moist well ground tobacco product consumed orally by placing it under the upper lip for extended periods of time.
  • Topical tobacco paste is used to treat insect bites like wasp, bee and scorpion stings
  • Tobacco water refers to organic insecticides used for gardening purposes.