Types of Tobacco, Uses, Benefits, And More

If you’re a smoker, you may think you know everything there is to know about tobacco. But, do you really? Tobacco is a plant with a long, rich history, and there are many ways to consume tobacco. Tobacco use has been documented for over 8,000 years, so it’s no surprise it’s been the subject of a ton of innovation. Buckle up, tobacco enthusiasts, because today we’re going to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about tobacco, from the history to the different types, the uses, the benefits, and more.

What is tobacco?

If you’re not quite sure what tobacco is, you’re not alone. The tobacco most people are familiar with has been processed in some way. However, some people may not know that tobacco starts as a leaf. Tobacco plants are indigenous to the Americas, but they’re now grown all over the world.

Tobacco leaves contain high levels of the addictive chemical nicotine, which is why so many enjoy it. Tobacco leaves are heavily processed and then can be smoked, applied to the gums, or inhaled. Nicotine can even be extracted from the tobacco leaf and concentrated, then smoked in an e-cigarette. 

Humans have been consuming tobacco for a very long time for a variety of reasons. In some cultures, tobacco plays a sacred part in spiritual ceremonies. In others, smoking tobacco is traditionally used to celebrate momentous events, such as graduations or the birth of a baby. Tobacco can help calm the nerves and help people focus, and many smokers feel it helps them relax.

When tobacco leaves are smoked, nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream. When tobacco is chewed or sniffed, nicotine is absorbed through the membranes in the mouth and nose, where it then travels through the body to the brain.

Nicotine triggers the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that is often associated with pleasure. Tobacco can have various effects, depending on the person and how the tobacco is consumed. Some people may feel stimulated by tobacco, while others feel relaxed.

History of tobacco

Humans have been growing and using tobacco for centuries. Tobacco cultivation likely began around 5,000 B.C., alongside the development of maize-based agriculture in Central Mexico, although it’s possible it was used even before then. Tobacco was originally used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies and for medical purposes. Tobacco was thought to be a cure-all remedy, and Native healers used Tobacco for ailments such as asthma, earaches, bowel problems, fever, sore eyes, depression, insect bites, and burns.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the Native Americans gave him tobacco as a gift. It gained instant popularity in Europe, as the Europeans also believed tobacco had magical healing properties.By the early 17th century, scientists and philosophers noticed some of the more negative effects copious tobacco consumption causes. They noted that they had difficulty breathing and couldn’t seem to quit smoking. In 1632, Massachusetts passed a state law that made smoking in public illegal. This is the first recorded legislation that had anything to do with tobacco.

Today, tobacco is still popular, but not as many people smoke as they once did. E-cigarettes are extremely popular, especially with younger generations. However, all types of tobacco products, from cigarettes to pipes to chewing tobacco to snuff, are still enjoyed by adults worldwide.

Types of Tobacco Leaves

Tobacco plants are a relative of potato, eggplant, and tomato plants. They grow to be about two feet tall and have oval-shaped leaves that can grow to be about 10-20 inches. Tobacco plants can grow pink, white, or yellow flowers, which bloom and produce tiny fruits. The leaf part of the tobacco plant contains nicotine, so that’s the part that’s harvested. Each different type of tobacco plant contains various levels of nicotine. Some tobacco leaves can contain as much as 18% nicotine.

There are many kinds of tobacco plants, each with different uses. We’ve compiled some of the most common tobacco plants below. 

Virginia Flue-Cured Tobacco

Virginia flue-cured tobacco leaves are the most popular for cigarettes and pipes. It’s known as the “smoker’s tobacco” because of its mild burn and slightly sweet flavor and aroma. The word Virginia doesn’t describe the tobacco’s origin but rather the type of seed, the method of harvesting, and the flue-curing process. Virginia tobacco is light yellow and has higher sugar and nitrogen than most other cured tobacco. The flavor is mild and subtle, and it’s gentle on the throat. Virginia tobacco is known to be easy-smoking, which is why it’s so commonly used in cigarettes.

Burley Tobacco

Burley is lighter tobacco that is air-cured. After the curing process, it contains very little sugar, and the final flavor is usually chocolatey, nutty, and bitter. To mask the bitterness, Burley tobacco is generally sweetened or used as a base for other flavored tobaccos. Burley is often used in pipes and cigarettes and makes an excellent base for those looking to add flavor or balance to a tobacco blend.

Cavendish Tobacco

Cavendish is not a type of tobacco plant but instead a unique curing process used on tobacco leaves. Any kind of tobacco can be used to create Cavendish tobacco. Cavendish tobacco is processed to add flavor, sweetness, or both. Cavendish helps stabilize and moderate burn traits in various tobacco products and is commonly used in blends.

Perique Tobacco

This is a unique style of tobacco that is only grown in St. James Parish, Louisiana. It begins as air-cured tobacco, then undergoes an additional 12 to 18 months of processing. Perique is aged in barrels, which produces an incredibly rich, full-flavored tobacco. Because it’s so strong, it is best mixed with other types of tobacco. Perique tobacco adds a nice peppery, figgy flavor to blends, with a plum and pine finish. Perique is often blended with Virginia tobacco for smoking in pipes and cigars.

Latakia Tobacco

Latakia tobacco gets its name from a Syrian city, as it grows in Cyprus and in the Northern part of Syria. Latakia is cured by drying above burning aromatic herbs and wood. This gives Latakia a flavorful aroma with notes of spice, herbs, and leather. Latakia is great in a variety of tobacco blends and in cigarettes, as it adds flavor. Latakia is used most in English tobacco blends.

Rustica Tobacco

Rustica is also known as “wild tobacco.” It’s incredibly strong and has a nicotine level of around 9%, compared to other types of tobacco leaves with only 3%. Rustica grows in many places, including North America, Central, and South America, India, Afghanistan, Burma, Russia, and Africa.

Rustica is incredibly full-flavored and is famous for hookah, pipes, and chewing.

Kentucky Tobacco

Kentucky tobacco is a type of Burley tobacco that is fire-cured. It’s not an overly strong leaf. It’s mild, approachable, and relatively easy to smoke. It has a mild flavor, with smoky-sweet notes. Its gentleness makes it an excellent option for cigarettes and pipes.

Organic Tobacco

This isn’t a type of tobacco but rather a category. Like most fruits and vegetables, tobacco leaves rely on pesticides and other chemicals to keep bugs away. Some people want to avoid these chemicals and opt for organic tobacco, which doesn’t rely on pesticides and is less processed. Proponents of organic tobacco believe it offers a purer tobacco flavor. Most types of tobacco leaves are available in an organic form.