Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)

Have you ever consumed tobacco in the form of a cigar, cigarette, chew, snuff, or pipe tobacco and wanted to know a little more about the herb that you are consuming?  Did you ever think to start smoking to feel socially adjusted in the group?  There are many other reasons that people will start smoking including viewing it as “the cool thing to do”, seeing it in movies, wanting to look grown up, curbing their appetite, oral fixation, and a feeling of relaxation.  Please take a look around my website and you may find some interesting facts about tobacco that you may not have known before.


Tobacco is an herb that is used widely among many people.  Tobacco's strict religious uses, including the healing of wounds and the control of pain with smoke, have almost vanished and now tobacco is used by millions of Americans everyday as a recreational drug.  The ingredient in tobacco that is addictive, keeping people wanting more, is nicotine.  Nicotine is an alkaloid, or poison, which is naturally occurring in the plant.  It is present in every form of tobacco, some more concentrated than others.  When consumed, tobacco has both short term and lasting long-term effects on the consumer.  The short-term effects include an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and flow of blood away from the heart.  Some of the documented long-term effects it is known to have include: chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.  Tobacco is also documented to cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder.  Tobacco is not only used for consumption but also can be used as an organic pesticide.  In the form of nicotine tartrate, tobacco can be used in medicines. 

Native Americans consumed tobacco orally in the form of chew.  This method of consumption works because the tissue in your mouth is very thin and in close contact with your blood vessels, allowing the nicotine to transfer from the plant and into your blood stream.  In today's world, bits of fiberglass have been added to chew or “dip” in order to faster absorb the drug into the system for a bigger “buzz”.


There are many different species of tobacco all under the genus Nicotiana. The word nicotiana, as well as nicotine, was named in honor of a French ambassador to Portugal named Jean Nicot.  In 1559 she sent the plant tobacco to the court of Catherine de' Medici as a medicine and it acquired that name in honor of her ever since.  Tobacco is harvested every year and is cultivated similar to other crops in cold frames and hotbeds in order to prevent insects from destroying them.  Upon harvesting, tobacco is then left to cure allowing the carotenoids in the leaves to oxidize and degrade giving the smoke that “smooth” property.  The production of tobacco is huge in America with a single machine making up to 3,000 cigarettes per day as early as 1881!  Here in the United States, tobacco is much more than just a plant.  Tobacco employs up to 660,000 American workers providing $15 billion in wages to them. 

Once this herb was newly discovered, the government did not waste any time in getting their hands on such a growing and explosive market.  In Wisconsin today, each pack of cigarettes on average is taxed $2.52.  New York is the leader in the United States with a cigarette tax of $4.35 a pack!  Adding up all of the states combined, the average pack is taxed $1.45 per pack.


Why is tobacco so addictive?

Tobacco is addictive in a couple different ways.  There is the physical addiction and there is the psychosocial addiction.  The physical addiction affects the brain and does not develop immediately.  The addiction can take up to weeks or even months to develop and it is known that people who begin smoking before the age of 20 are more dependant on the addiction.  The psychosocial addiction is simply the fact that smoking gives pleasure to some people.  They enjoy handling the cigarette and taking drags off of it.  They use cigarettes for a quick fix in times of discomfort and/or anxiety.

For more general information about tobacco, its production, and effects on the body, please visit

So now that you know a little about tobacco in general, let us take a look at how this herb is classified by clicking here.

If you are interested in researching other organisms like mine, you should check out the diverse collection found at which my website is a part of!

If you would like to check out some very interesting fungi in the mean time make sure to check out my professor's (Dr. Volk) website by clicking here!

Organismal Biology,  Logan Van Hoof,  April 2011