HEALTH EFFECTS OF TOBACOO

Authors

  • S. Humayun Shah

Abstract

Tobacco in various forms has been used for centuries. American Indians were apparently thefirst to use tobacco in various forms: they smoked, chewed and sniffed.Tobacco plant is a native of tropical America. The original ancestor is not known becausetobacco is a very old plant and has been under cultivation for centuries. The plant spread all overNorth America before the arrival of Whiteman. When Columbus first landed in 1492, some of thenatives brought him a gift of dried leaves.' Throughout the West Indies, Columbus found that thetobacco trade between Indian tribes had been prevalent for hundreds of years. It was found that theIndians either inhale the smoke of the leaves when set alight in pipes, cigarettes, cigars or chewedthe leaf itself. Smoking and other forms of tobacco use had become a part of everyday life, andtobacco had real economic significance. In addition, it was used in the form of poultices and pastesfor treating burns, sores, cancers, sciatica, diseases of the liver, spleen and womb, chills,convulsions, worms, colic, warts, corns and bites by rabid dogs. This habit was adopted by whitesailors and through them reached Europe from where it spread to Africa, Australia and Asia.The practice of smoking was not very common in Europe until 1586 but from there on-wardits popularity increased inspite of opposition by Clergymen and rulers.Linnaeus in 1753, named the genus of Tobacco Plant as “Nicotiana tobaccum” after theFrench statesman Nicot. In 1828, the most important known ingredient of tobacco was isolated andcalled Nicotine.2 The eighteenth century was the century of smokeless tobacco (snuff and chewingtobacco). Its decline started about in 1850, when the sale of cigars and pipes began to take the leadand during the late 1800s the chewing tobacco decreased greatly, when chewing and spitting wereexcoriated by leaders in medicine and science such as Koch, Pasteur and Lister who associated thehabit with germs and transmission of communicable diseases.3Since the early 1970s, there has been a great resurgence in the use of all forms of smokelesstobacco in the United States. The sales of smokeless tobacco have increased about 11% each yearsince 1974 with an estimated 22 million users in the United States.4In Pakistan, the annual production of tobacco amounts to 70-80 million kg of which 85% isconsumed within the country in various forms (smoking, chewing, nasswar and hooka). Over 80%of the country’s smokers are males aged 15 and above whereas smoking among females in relativelyuncommon

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