Tobacco is a plant. They are best known for the small brown snips in cigarettes. The plant grows about as tall as a human being. It has leaves at the bottom and pink flowers at the top. When the leaves are harvested, dried, and further processed, they turn into a brown material. It is called tobacco, just like the whole plant.
The Indians used tobacco long before the explorers came to them. They smoked tobacco not only in pipes. They chewed or ate it too. They even squeezed its juice, rubbed it on the skin, or used it as eye drops. Tobacco contains the substance nicotine or nicotine. It can excite, calm, and even relieve pain and certain ailments.
In Europe, tobacco from America was first used as medicine. Tobacco was also cultivated in Europe in the 17th century. The tobacco was sold as chewing tobacco or ground into a fine powder to be sniffed. Some people still use such snuff today. Today, however, the absolute largest part of tobacco is used for cigarettes.
The tobacco plant likes it warmer. Most tobacco is therefore grown in southern countries. The second reason is that the harvest and processing of tobacco in particular requires a lot of manual work. It’s cheaper in the south. In addition, only worse tobacco grows here because of the climate. Tobacco cultivation in Europe used to be supported by the states with money, i.e. subsidized. In the European Union, these grants have not existed since 2010. They still exist in Switzerland today.
It has not yet been researched how many different substances tobacco contains. There must be several thousand. The most important is nicotine. Scientists have long pointed out that nicotine is harmful to humans. It can cause cancer, shorten life and cause death. This warning must now be written in large letters on every package containing tobacco.
How does the plant become finished tobacco?
Tobacco plants must be grown from seeds. The small seedlings are then planted in rows in a field. With enough water and warmth, they will then grow on their own. When the plants are about the size of a child, people crawl through the rows on their knees.
The bottom leaves are worthless. The workers mostly use them as cushions on the floor. They break off about the bottom third and stack the sheets together. A good week later, the middle third follows, then the upper one. At the very end, you can collect the seeds for the next year from the flowers.
The stacks of leaves are then taken to a barn. Each sheet must be placed individually in a machine. Then a string is pulled through the leaf stalks and the whole row is hung to dry.
The dried leaves are taken from the strings and piled up in large piles. Various tiny creatures then ensure that the tobacco ferments. Finally, it is sold and taken to a factory for further processing.
What is harmful about tobacco?
Above all, the tobacco harvest and drying are a lot of work. Children often do it too. This child labor prevents them from going to school. Tobacco plants also lose a lot of sticky sap. It also sticks to people. The nicotine then enters the body through the skin. That’s as much as smoking fifty cigarettes a day. Hardly any child in a developing country wears a protective suit with gloves.
Growing tobacco requires a lot of fertile lands where no food can be grown. This causes famine. In addition, tobacco is grown in large monocultures. These are huge fields where nothing else grows. A variety of animal and plant species does not exist there. Plants also draw a lot of nutrients from the soil. After a few years, the floors are depleted and worthless. When nothing grows on it, the rain washes away the soil.
Tobacco is very susceptible to mold. That is why today the tobacco fields are sprayed with poison even before the mold becomes visible. Other possible diseases are also treated with chemicals. The poison is also harmful to people and soil.
Plantation workers are totally dependent on plantation owners. Small tobacco farmers are dependent on the companies that buy their tobacco. These companies can largely determine the prices for this. The big money is made by the companies and trade.
After all, those who consume tobacco damage their own bodies. The World Health Organization has calculated that tobacco kills more than six million people every year. That’s more than living in Finland, for example.