Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tobacco Plant and Cigarette

Tobacco is a tall, herbaceous plant, the leaves which are harvested, cured and rolled into cigars, shredded for use in cigarettes and pipes, and processes for chewing or snuff. Tobacco is an important crop in most tropical countries and in many temperate ones. The main source of commercial tobacco is N. tobacum, although N. rustica is also grown and is used in Oriental tobaccos. Growers have developed a wide range of varieties, from the small leaves aromatic tobaccos to the large broad leaves cigar tobaccos.

Tobacco is native to the Americas, and the practice of inhaling the smoke of the dried plant material has been documented in the Mayan culture more than 2,000 years ago. The Mayans moved northward form central America through the Aztec Empire and eventually took their customs to north American Indian tribes. The Arawak Indians of the Caribbean smoked tobacco, Christopher Columbus, during his 1492 voyage, found them smoking loosely rolled cigars. The Spanish took tobacco seeds to Europe where Jean Nicot gave the plant its generic name, Nicotiana. Sir Walter Raleigh began the popularization of pipe smoking in Great Britain in 1586, and the cultivation and consumption of tobacco spread with each voyage of discovery from Europe.

Two kinds of tobacco were traded between Europe and America, Spanish, from the West Indies and South America, and Virginia, from what is now the state of Virginia. The Spaniards were the first Europeans to cultivate substantial amounts of tobacco. Despite its popularity in England, James I -who vehemently disapproved of tobacco forbade, its production there. Europeans at first smoked their tobacco in pipes, and later in cigars. Cigarettes grew in popularity only after the Crimean war (1854 - 56); their spread was aided by the development in the United States of the first cigarette making machine in 1881.

Tobacco Cultivation
Unlike most other annual agricultural crops, tobacco has a small seed (1 oz = 300,000 seeds), which can not be sown directly in the field. Seeding are raised in carefully selected and tended seedbeds where protection is given against heavy rain and excess sun. Young seedings are planted out by hand or by mechanical transplanter. The crop needs a minimum of 120 frost free days and can be grown in a variety of soils.

Producing disease resistant tobacco of acceptable quality is difficult, because the plant is susceptible to many diseases. Chemical control is now widely practiced although the choice of chemicals is limited by the need to ensure that they do not taint the tobacco when it is smoked.

In the United States and Canada, tobacco is often stalk by machine, but in many parts of the world like Indonesia, it is still harvested leaf by leaf. Only a fully ripe leaf is used. After harvesting, leaves are fed together in pairs on curing sticks or strings.

Curing Process of Tobacco Leaves
Four different methods are used to cure, or dry tobacco. Flue curing, used mainly in the manufacture of cigarettes, produce a tobacco with a high sugar content and a medium high nicotine content. It requires a closed building equipped with a ventilation system and a heat source.

Air cured tobaccos, such as cigar tobaccos and burley tobaccos, have a low sugar content. Air curing requires an open framework in which leaves (or whole plants) are  hung, protected from wind and sun.

Fire cured tobacco is used mostly for pipe tobacco mixtures, snuff, and chewing tobacco. It has a low sugar but high nicotine content. Fire curing employs an enclosed barn. Small fires are built on the floor, and the leaves cure in a smoke laden atmosphere.

Sun curing is the drying of leaves in the sun. These tobaccos are used in cigarettes and have characteristic aromas. They are low in both sugar and nicotine.

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