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What is the history of tobacco use?

The following is a timeline of the history of tobacco.

• Before 1492: Tobacco was first used by the pre-Columbian  Americans, who cultivated it for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

• 1492: Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean and observed the natives smoking and chewing tobacco. The Indians smoked tobacco through a Y shaped pipe called a Tobago. Christopher Columbus brought a few tobacco leaves and seeds back to Europe.

• 1556: Tobacco did not gain popularity until it was introduced to France in 1556, when Jean Nicot, a Frenchman, gave the tobacco seeds to Catherine de Medicis, the Queen of France. Plants grew from the seeds and were christened Nicotine tabacur after Jean Nicot’s name. Later, the addictive substance was called nicotine.

• 1584: Sir Francis Drake, the famous explorer of California Coast, introduced tobacco to Sir Walter Raleigh, another well-known explorer of the Carolinas.

• 1612: The first commercial tobacco crop was grown in Virginia.


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What are the different ways in which tobacco is consumed?

Tobacco can be ingested in many forms. Native Americans produced tobacco to be consumed as a beverage but mainly ingested it by smoking it using a pipe.

A paste of moistened tobacco applied to the skin was a common remedy for insect bites and stings, and tobacco has been used to control minor bleeding as well as an antiseptic, as it kills many bacteria.

Occasionally, it was used medicinally as an enema, but this method was far too dangerous because the high risk of overdose. It was therefore limited to smoking by shamans as a method for achieving visions. Chewing and snorting are also utilized. Finally, tobacco is absorbed easily through the skin, and people have been known to put snuff between their toes as a method of remaining inconspicuous while using it.

 Cigarette smoking gained popularity after the Civil War when cigarette sales surged. By the twentieth century, the growth of cigarette smoking was exponential across all classes of people, both males and females.



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Is tobacco a drug?

There is no single, precise definition for a drug, but generally speaking, a drug is defined as a compound that, when ingested, alters bodily function in some manner. Surprisingly, it was not until 1996 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared nicotine a drug and thus attempted unsuccessfully to bring it under its jurisdiction.


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What are tar and nicotine?


Tar is the brown, sticky substance left at the end of a cigarette filter after it is smoked. It includes additional ingredients to give cigarettes a better flavor. The by-products of smoking these other ingredients are inhaling toxic chemicals.

Tar is made up of more than 4000 chemicals; some of the more toxic chemicals include cyanide, benzene, ammonia, and methanol (wood alcohol).


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How do chemicals such as nicotine work in the brain?

First, knowing how the brain works in general and how chemicals interact with neurons to alter communication between nerve cells is a good basis for understanding how the brain responds to nicotine. The brain is a complex organ comprised of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter consists of the cell bodies of neurons and other support cells. White matter consists of long tracts of axons that run between the neurons (like telephone lines) in order to communicate to other brain regions.


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