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Chewing tobacco (also known as chew, chaw) refers to a form of smokeless tobacco furnished as long strands of whole leaves and consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or teeth and chewing. Unlike dipping tobacco, it isn't ground and must be mechanically crushed with the teeth to release flavour and nicotine. Unwanted juices are then expectorated. Historically, chewing tobacco was the most prevalent form of tobacco use in the United States until it was overtaken by cigarette smoking in the early 20th Century. Tobacco in this form is now largely confined to rural and especially Southern areas of the United Statesmarker.

Health Effects

Chewing tobacco has been known to cause cancer, particularly of the mouth and throat. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, "Some health scientists have suggested that smokeless tobacco should be used in smoking cessation programmes and have made implicit or explicit claims that its use would partly reduce the exposure of smokers to carcinogens and the risk for cancer. These claims, however, are not supported by the available evidence. "


Loose leaf tobacco is sweetened and packaged loose in aluminum lined pouches. The chewer simply takes a portion directly from the pouch. This is the most widely available.

Plug tobacco is press formed into sheets, with the aid of a little syrup, mostly molasses, which helps maintain form as well as sweeten. The sheets are then cut into individual plugs, wrapped with fine tobacco and then packaged. Individual servings must be cut or bitten directly from the plug.

Twist tobacco is spun and rolled into large rope-like strands and then twisted into a knot. The final product is much lower in moisture than plug or loose leaf tobacco, and historic varieties could be smoked in a pipe as well as chewed. This was the most common form of chewing tobacco in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tobacco bits are formed by rolling sweetened and typically flavoured tobacco into small pieces which are consumed individually. These are typically packaged in small tins like mint.


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 the mineral lime.

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 neighbours who grew it. Commercial sales became important in the late 19th century as major tobacco companies rose in the South, becoming one of the largest employers in cities like Durham, NCmarker and Richmond, VAmarker. Southerners dominated the tobacco industry in the United States; even a concern as large as the Helm Tobacco Company, headquartered in New Jerseymarker, 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 thetop-selling Camel brand of cigarettes. Reynolds sold large quantities of chewing tobacco, though that market peaked about 1910.

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:

In the U.S., chewing tobacco was culturally associated with sports, especially baseball, for much of the 20th Century, but now its use by participants is almost universally banned at organized sporting events.

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 to chewing tobacco and agreed that it sets a bad example for children.


One of the most successful methods of advertising chewing tobacco was the Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn signs, which were in use from 1890-1992.


In the late 19th century, during the peak in popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States, a device known as the spittoon was a ubiquitous feature throughout places both private and public (e.g. parlours and passenger car). The purpose of the spittoon was to provide a receptacle for excess juices and spittle accumulated from the oral use of tobacco. As chewing tobacco's popularity declined throughout the years, the spittoon became merely a relic of the Old West and is rarely seen outside museums. To this very day spittoons are still present on the floor of the U.S. Senate, though they are no longer used by its members.


In India tobacco is not chewed but kept between lip and gum after mixed with lime. This is called "jarda" in punjabi. A popular folksaying about it goes thus " ਜਿਹੜਾ ਲਾਓ ਜਰਦਾ ਉਹ ਸੌ ਸਾਲ ਨੰਈ ਮਰਦਾ " (he who chews tobacco would live to be a hundred )


  • Beechnut
  • Big Mountain
  • H.B. Scott
  • Levi Garrett
  • Red Man
  • Red Horse
  • Lancaster
  • Morgan tobacco
  • Durango
  • Chattanooga Chew
  • Southern Pride
  • Taylor's Pride
  • Cannonball
  • Day o' life
  • Days of work
  • Starr

See also


  2. A History of the United States since the Civil War Volume: 1. by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer; 1917. P 93.

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