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Why do people use tobacco?

Tobacco is clearly valued for its psychoactive effects.

This means that it has several actions on the mind that depend upon the dose used. It can be used to stimulate the mind, relieve anxiety, or create visions or hallucinations. All of these properties can be pleasurable. In many Native American tribes, tobacco was traditionally used for religious or shamanistic purposes.

Traditionally, tobacco was reserved primarily for shamans and priests because of its hallucinogenic properties. Tobacco was thought to allow the individual a conduit to the visions of the future, to the afterlife, God, or to a greater spiritual plain.

All parts of the plant were used for different medicinal purposes; tobacco was used in agriculture to deter insects and other plant diseases, and it was a source of currency. Many tribes use tobacco to this day in their ceremonies and consider it one of the most important of their sacred herbs.

During the Colonial era, tobacco was used as a commodity for bartering, and it was exported to Europe in exchange for manufactured products. Snuff and chewing tobacco were initially more popular among men before the Civil War.

Starting with World War I, cigarettes became popular among Americans. Snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes, and cigarettes are all used for pleasure. Nicotine, the major psychoactive ingredient of tobacco, can act as both a stimulant to enhancing the ability to think clearly and improve alertness, and as a relaxant to relieve anxiety, so that the smoker “feels good.”

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