Taxonomy: The Nicotiana tobaccum plant (smoking tobacco) comes from the kingdom Plantae, and subkingdom Tracheobionta (vascular plants).It is also a Spermatophyte which mean “seed plant” and is also considered a Magnoliophyte (flowering plant) Its subclass is Asterides, and comes from the Solanaceae family (potato family). The plants genus is Nicotiana (tobacco) and similarly its species is the Nicotiana Tabacum (cultivated tobacco).
Tobacco is related to many other plants which include; vegetables, flowers, weeds, and poisonous
herbs like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and petunias. The plant family is Solanceae and the genus, Nicotiana contains about 100 different species, however only two of them have been heavily cultivated.
Natural History: This type of tobacco (Nicotiana tabaccum) which was originally only native to the eastern United States was the first form of tobacco that was introduced to the Spanish by Jerez and Torres, and has been the preferred tobacco since settlers in Virginia started to grow it.
Planters thought that the tobacco had to be grown on virgin soil, so it made its was to the eastern part of the U.S (which is now the North Carolina area). The eighteenth century became the “Age of Snuff”. The tobacco from North Carolina was used for snuff and pipe smoking, and at this time cigarettes were mainly used in Spain.
However by the 1840’s cigarettes became popular by French women, and many anti-tobacco societies were born, as the cigarette market made its way to the United States, and the rest is history.
Characteristics:The Nicotiana tobaccum plant is an annual herb that ranges from .9- 2 m tall. The leaves are elliptic in shape; the flowers grow in clusters at the end of each branch and range from white to light red in colour and form globular seeds. The plant itself is a stalk with large leaves drooping off the main stem. It also has a short root that branches into a very dense root system. The crop can take between 2-5 months before it is ready to be harvested.
Tobaccum is quite sensitive to temperature, air and ground humidity, as well as the type of land. A temperature of 20-30 degrees Celsius is best and for best growth, a humidity of 80-85% and soil without a high level of nitrogen are also needed.
The plant is native to tropical and subtropical American conditions, but is now grown commercially worldwide. The plant is mostly grown in the eastern United States, Brazil, and Argentina. And is often found on dry grasslands, clearings, and along the edges of forests and roads in natural form as well as in cultivated areas.
Products: The nicotine in the tobacco can be used as an effective insecticide, as it is completely biodegradable. Tobacco is also used in enemas for the treatment is intestinal worms or constipation. And lastly, the most common use is the dried tobacco leaves used for chewing, snuffing, or smoking (cigarettes). There are also many other products that use nicotine to help people stop smoking. (Patches, gum, etc.)
Also researchers at the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center are working on different ways to use the plant for “molecular farming” by adding different genes to the plant to make new products like medicines, and enzymes for industrial uses.
Properties: The most valuable part of the plant used is the nicotine, which is found in all parts except the seed. The concentration of nicotine increases with the age of the plant. A mature plant has about 64% nicotine in the leaves, 18% in the stem, 13% in the root, and 5% in the flowers. The chemical structure of nicotine consists of pyridine and pyrrolidine ring. Another chemical property is Anabaseine, an alkaloid similar to nicotine. The physical properties are also very distinct. Nicotine is colourless to pale yellow, very oily and has an unpleasant odour and sharp burning taste. It also slowly becomes brown after it is exposed to light or air. It is soluble in water, alcohol, chloroform, ether, kerosene, and some fixed oils. It should be stored in an airtight container and protected from light.
Time Line of Nicotiana Tobaccum:
c. 6000BCE Tobacco begins to grow in Americas.
1 BC Inhabitants find ways to use tobacco, including smoking and chewing.
1492 Christopher Columbus is offered dried tobacco leaves by the natives.
1559 Tobacco is called Nicotiana in honour of Jean Nicot, who finds medical uses for tobacco.
1628 Virginia has a monopoly on tobacco exports to England.
1730 First American tobacco factories are started in Virginia in the form of “snuff mills.”
1843 First commercial production of rolled cigarettes (France).
1880 Four leading cigarette companies sold 532,718 cigarettes in 1880 and 2.4 billion cigars. Also first cigarette machine is made.
1912 13 billion cigarettes sold in U.S.
1950 Scientific links are made between smoking and lung cancer.
1994 Tobacco companies release the “list” of the 599 additives to tobacco.
2003 Canada implements a full smoking ban in restaurants and bars have to have separate ventilated smoking rooms.
Product Influences: Nicotiana Tobaccum is most commonly associated with cigarettes. The product that has most influenced our society in every way imaginable, including globally. It has been said by Statistics Canada that 21.5% of Canadians are smokers. That is over 6 million smokers. Statistics Canada, also states that in 2002, about 38.4 billion cigarettes were sold in Canada, which surprisingly is a 9% decline from the year before. Also, there were 45,215 deaths in Canada alone last year due to smoking related diseases. As you can see, smoking has a huge impact on all our lives, because even if you do not smoke, secondhand smoke is even worse. There are over 3,000 deaths by non-smokers because of second hand smoke, and thousands of others who get respiratory problems.
Tobacco has drastically changed people’s quality of life, for the worse. There are over 48,000 easily prevented deaths, each year. It also harms our environment, due to the pollution is causes which again lowers our quality of life. And lastly, tobacco’s influence on the economy is unfortunately, helping. Since all tobacco products are heavily taxed, the government gets a lot of money from smokers. Globally it is the same, as in Canada, just on a wider scale, with more people dying, more cigarettes being sold, and more money for the governments.
Technology & Research
Costs: There are many costs associated with tobacco products. Socially, and economically medical bills caused by smoking deaths and diseases are very high, it is estimated at $75 billion in the U.S alone are the medical costs associated with smoking. Also, there are very high costs caused from the legal aspect, people suing tobacco companies. Plus the cost of smoking in general, because of the health risk, the government has raised the taxes on tobacco products and now supporting your habit is very expensive.
New Research: Again, the new research comes from Kentucky, where they are trying to find new uses for the tobacco plant. By using “molecular farming,” they are adding new genes to produce new helpful products like vaccines, medicines, and enzymes for industrial uses. Scientists are trying to promote the advantages of tobacco by developing new markets and new customers for the “new gene enhanced tobacco.”
Some questions I have about the issue:
If the tobacco plant is poisonous, is the result of over 48,000 deaths in Canada alone (every year), is a habit that harms others around you through secondhand smoke. Why are governments allowing the product to be sold?
Technology:Jobs in the tobacco industry have being declining because of new technology. Machines are continuing to take over the jobs that once employed many workers. Also because of all the new control policies, the industry is getting smaller. However, in developing countries, the tobacco industry is on the rise, because they do not have any control policies that affect the people’s employment. The World Health Organization is working on making the policies world wide, but it may take a while. The policies state:
1. “Assisting, as appropriate, tobacco workers in the development of appropriate economically and legally viable alternative livelihoods in an economically viable manner; and
2. Assisting, as appropriate, tobacco growers in shifting agricultural production to alternative crops in an economically viable manner; …”
Occupations: Farmer- responsible for the land (planting, growing tobacco)
Seasonal Worker (harvesting the crop)
Factory worker (Curing, drying the tobacco, packaging)
Advertising (designing the package, layout of magazine ads, creating slogans.)
Sales (selling the products)
Educational Background for Farming:
If you are going to be responsible for the land being used to grow and harvest tobacco plants, a general agriculture degree is important. There are many courses that Universities offer that have to do with agriculture and farming. But first, you need to have a strong science background because the farming occupation requires the knowledge of plants and animals and it is a prerequisite for most of the courses in University. A Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a program that is offered at many universities including Lethbridge, British Columbia, McGill, Saskatchewan, Western, and Nova Scotia is the course necessary to become a successful farm owner. After completing the University course, you would go on to becoming a farm labourer, where you would gain technical and farm related experience. The next level is to become a farm manager, where you would acquire the business experience, agricultural knowledge and administrative experience. The third and final step is to become a farm owner and with this job you would be responsible for all resources (labour, capital, and machinery), and be in charge of ensuring proper crop and irrigation techniques.
The farm owner is the one associated with the first step in the flow chart, as they are the ones who are responsible for the growing and cultivating the tobacco that is later sold and marketed.
Based on my research and analysis I have discovered that the tobacco plant, nicotiana tobaccum is one of the most significant plants in our history and has made a huge impact on society and in our daily lives. It is one of the most controversial plants today, as almost all of the plant is poisonous yet smoking is one of the most common habits and most deadly. It is said that at least one in every 5 people smoke and the impact that smoking deaths have had on many lives is evident. The properties of the plant are understood with the knowledge of plant science since the plant contains a very harmful, addictive toxin, Nicotine and the fact that tobacco causes damage to the respiratory system.
The information and technology gained from science could hopefully be used to improve the products that are currently being made by the nicotiana tobaccum plant. It is a proven fact that the nicotiana tobaccum plant by itself is a lot less harmful then after commercial tobacco companies put 599 additives into the plant that are much more harmful. There is also ongoing research about tobacco and many scientists are trying to use technology to improve tobacco products and make new ones that could have a positive impact on our society and our daily lives.
Dr. Julia Higa Landoni. (1990, March). IPCS Inchem: Nicotiana Tobaccum L site. Retrieved January 2, 2004, from http://www.inchem.org/documents/pims/plant/nicotab.htm#Secti onTitle:2.6%20Main%20toxins
Natural Resource Conservation Service. (2003, December 29). Plants Database. Retrieved December 30, 2003, from http://plants.usda.gov/index.html
University of Florida. (2002, February). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences site. Retrieved January 2, 2004, from
Anaca Technologies Limited. (2004). Career Cruising site. Retrieved January 2, 2004, from
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Weil, A, & Rosen, W. (1993). From Chocolate to Morphine. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.