Chewing tobacco

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Chewing tobacco is a smokeless tobacco product. Chewing is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. Native Americans in both North and South America chewed the leaves of the plant, frequently mixed with lime. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). It is a known cause of human cancer, as it increases the risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity. Oral health problems strongly associated with smokeless tobacco use are leukoplakia (a lesion of the soft tissue that consists of a white patch or plaque that cannot be scraped off) and recession of the gums. Thus, all smokeless tobacco advertisements are required by law to have a warning label stating that they are not a safer alternative to cigarettes. [1]. In the United States, Chewing tobacco is widely associated with baseball players. One noteworthy example of baseball players and chewing tobacco was Bill Tuttle. Tuttle was an outfielder in Major League Baseball's American League during the 1950s and the 1960s, for the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Athletics and Minnesota Twins.


Modern chewing tobacco is produced in three forms: twist, plug, and scrap. Twist is the oldest form. One to three high-quality leaves are braided and twisted into a rope while green, and then are cured in the same manner as other tobacco. Users cut a piece off the twist and chew it. Until recently this was done by farmers for personal consumption in addition to other tobacco intended for sale. Modern twist is occasionally lightly sweetened. It is still sold commercially, but rarely seen outside of Appalachia. Popular brands are Oliver Twist, Mammoth Cave, Moore's Red Leaf, and Cumberland Gap. A few manufacturers in the United Kingdom produce particularly strong twist tobacco meant for use in smoking pipes rather than chewing. These twists are not mixed with lime although they may be flavored with whisky, rum, cherry or other flavors.

Plug chewing tobacco is made by pressing together cured tobacco leaves in a sweet (often molasses-based) syrup. Originally this was done by hand, but since the second half of the 19th century leaves were pressed between large tin sheets. The resulting sheet of tobacco is cut into plugs. Like twist, consumers cut a piece off of the plug to chew. Major brands are Days O Work and Cannonball.

Scrap, or looseleaf chewing tobacco (sometimes referred to as "chew" or "chaw"), was originally the excess of plug manufacturing. It's sweetened like plug tobacco, but sold loose in bags rather than a plug. Looseleaf is by far the most popular form of chewing tobacco. Popular brands are Red Man, Levi Garrett, Beechnut, and Mail Pouch. Looseleaf chewing tobacco can also be dipped.

During the peak of popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States in the late 19th century, spittoons were a common device for users to spit into.

The city of Kaimganj, Uttar Pradesh has been a large hub for chewing tobacco trade in India. General Supply Corporation and Sri Lakshmi Tobacco Company were the leading suppliers of chewing tobacco from Kaimganj. A court decision in 2002 banned the sale of chewing tobacco in Uttar Pradesh [2].

Legal bans on the sale of chewing tobacco and snuff have been introduced or proposed in other jurisdictions, including Queensland in Australia [3].

U.S. Industry

In the U.S., the term "chewing tobacco" usually (incorrectly) refers to Dipping tobacco, which is not actually chewed you just suck on it and spit it at the ground, or into a bottle or beer can and is sometimes referred to as having a fat lipper. Sales of chewing tobacco and moist snuff (smokeless tobacco) sold by American manufacturers to wholesalers were 109.4 million pounds in 1999; that represents the lowest level of sales in more than 100 years. However, possibly due to increasing regulations on public smoking, sales have since increased [4]. Those revenues reached $1.89 billion in 1993 and $1.94 billion in 1994. The total amount spent on advertising and promotion by the five major manufacturers declined slightly from 1997 to 1998 (from $150 million to $145 million), then rebounded to an all time high of $170 million in 2005. The most popular tobacco industry is the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. They manufacture Skoal, Red Seal, Copenhagen, Husky, and Rooster. [5]. Dipping tobacco is sold in almost all places where cigarettes are sold, but chewing tobacco is more limited in distribution.

The Southern U.S. was distinctive for its production of tobacco, which earned premium prices from around the world. Most farmers grew a little for their own use, or traded with neighbors who grew it. Commercial sales became important in the late 19th century as major tobacco companies rose in the South, becoming one the largest employers in cities like Durham, NC and Richmond, VA. Southerners dominated the tobacco industry in the United States; even a concerhin as large as the Helm Tobacco Company, headquartered in New Jersey, was headed by former Confederate officer George Washington Helme. In 1938 R.J. Reynolds marketed eighty-four brands of chewing tobacco, twelve brands of smoking tobacco, and the top-selling Camel brand of cigarettes. Reynolds sold large quantities of chewing tobacco, though that market peaked about 1910.[6]

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown, paying close attention to class and gender: [1]

The chewing of tobacco was well-nigh universal. This habit had been widespread among the agricultural population of America both North and South before the war. Soldiers had found the quid a solace in the field and continued to revolve it in their mouths upon returning to their homes. Out of doors where his life was principally led the chewer spat upon his lands without offence to other men, and his homes and public buildings were supplied with spittoons. Brown and yellow parabolas were projected to right and left toward these receivers, but very often without the careful aim which made for cleanly living. Even the pews of fashionable churches were likely to contain these familiar conveniences. The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle. An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlors of hotels and in the streets.

Chewing tobacco remains popular in the American South and continues to spark controversy. In September 2006 both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Senator from Virginia admitted chewing tobacco and agreed that it sets a bad example for children. [7]

See also


  • National Center For Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (Center for Disease Control), Smokeless Tobacco Fact sheet (2005) online at [8], with additional links
  1. A History of the United States since the Civil War Volume: 1. by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer; 1917. P 93.

External Links

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