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Tobacco Smoking: A Birds Eye View

Furquan Ahmad Ansari and Mohd. Yunus

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All over the Globe, from the immemorial; human beings smoking or chewed various substances for the pleasure. The substances used for smoking and chewing termed as fumitories and masticatories. In India, the most commonly fumitory and masticatory substances are tobacco and betel. The Tobacco belongs to Nicotina tabaccam Lilnn; Hindi – Tamaku, Tambaku, family – Solanaceae. Most of the material that are smoked or chewed posses a distinct stimulating or narcotic effects, due to the presence of various alkaloids.

The practice of tobacco – smoking was made known to Europeans about the year 1492 having been first observed by followers of Columbus when visiting the West Indians Islands. It is also thought that Columbus and his followers first saw tobacco smoke in Cuba. The Spaniards on the coast of South America first saw the practice of chewing tobacco in 1902. The first tobacco plant was brought to Europe in about the year 1560. In Italy the tobacco plant was called “Erica Santa Croce” and from Italy the knowledge and use of the plant spread gradually through out Northern and Eastern Europe. Tobacco was also introduced in England in 1586, and the smoking of it was fashionable. The Tobacco plant was introduced into India by the Portuguese about in 1905 and termed “Nicotina” is named on the name of the “Ambassador of France” in Portugal, which was “Gene Nicote De Willimen”. The tobacco is thought to be native of North Western Argentina and adjacent Bolivia. It is believed to have been in cultivation in pre-columbion times in West Indies, Mexico, Central America and Northern part of South America while tobacco-cultivating areas in India lies in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

The tar or particulate phase is defined as the material that is trapped when the smoke stream is passed through the Cambridge glass-fiber filter that retains 99.9% of all particulate material with a size >0.1 µ (Pryor and Stone, 1993). The gas phase is the material that passes through the filter. The particulate (tar) phase of cigarette smoke contains >1,017 free radicals/g, and the gas phase contains >1,015 free radicals/puff (Pryor and Stone, 1993). The radicals associated with the tar phase are long-lived (hours to months), whereas the radicals associated with the gas phase have a shorter life span (seconds) (Pryor and Stone, 1993; Smith and T.H. Fischer, 1998).

The compositions of Tobacco bears “Tar” and “Nicotine” which are the main components of tobacco make up 60% of smoked tobacco. Tar is a carcinogen (substance that causes cancer; Nicotine is addictive and increases cholesterol levels in your body which also known as best poison of paralyzant nicotine. Of all the known constituents, nicotine, a component of the tar phase, is the addictive substance of cigarette smoke (Powell, 1998). “Tar” describes particular matter inhaled when the smokers dawns on a lighted cigarette. Each particle composed of a large variety of organic and inorganic chemical and there is a wide range of volatile and semi-volatile chemicals. In its condensate form “Tar” is the sticky brown substances which was stain smokers fingers and teeth yellow brown. All cigarettes produce tar but the brand differs in amount. Filter tips cigarettes yield less tar than plain cigarettes.

“Nicotine”, as an alkaloid, is an extremely powerful drug. The way in which nicotine causes addiction is similar to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Nicotine is contained in the moisture of the tobacco leaf and when the cigarette is lit, it evaporates, attaching itself to minute droplets in the tobacco smoke inhaled by the smoker. Tobacco smoke also includes carbon monoxide, ammonia, dimethyiniyrosamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and acroline.

Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Post Box - 80, M. G. Marg Lucknow-226 001, Department of Environmental Sciences Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow

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