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Tobacco is the agricultural product of the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. All species of Nicotiana contain the addictive drug nicotine—a stimulant and sedative contained in all parts of the plants except the seeds—which occurs in varying amounts depending on the species and variety cultivated. See types of tobacco and curing of tobacco for more information.
The vast majority of commercially available tobacco is derived from the species Nicotiana tabacum, although it is also produced from Nicotiana alata, and to a lesser extent Nicotiana clevelandii, Nicotiana longiflora, and Nicotiana rustica, among others. Once tobacco has been grown, harvested, cured, and processed, it is used to produce a number of different products. An expert in tobacco and tobacco products — especially pipes, pipe tobacco, and cigars—including their procurement and sale, is called a tobacconist.
The health effects of tobacco consumption are discussed in health effects of tobacco. Chewing is one of the oldest methods of consuming tobacco leaves.
Native Americans in both North and South America chewed the fresh leaves of the tobacco plant, frequently mixed with lime. Twist tobacco may be an exception in this case, as many brands of twist are not sweetened. In using chewing tobacco—at least types other than tobacco pellets—the consumer usually deposits the tobacco between the cheek and teeth and lightly macerates and sucks the tobacco to allow its juices to flow.