Chewing tobacco

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 lime. Modern chewing tobacco is produced in three forms: twist, plug, and scrap. The term “Chewing” is actually somewhat misleading. Chewing tobacco is consumed orally, but it is rarely enjoyed by actually chewing. An experienced tobacco chewer generally takes a small amount and places it in the bottom lip of the mouth, between the gum and the teeth where it is gently compacted tighter and tighter into the chewer’s lip. Frequently when chewing it is common to spit and discard of excess saliva caused by the tobacco, justifying the existence of the spittoon.

A few manufacturers in the United Kingdom produce particularly strong twist tobacco meant for use in smoking pipes rather than chewing. These twists are not mixed with lime although they may be flavored with whiskey, rum, cherry or other flavors common to pipe tobacco. Twist is the oldest form. One to three high-quality leaves are braided and twisted into a rope while green, and then are cured in the same manner as other tobacco products. This was originally devised by sailors due to fire hazards of smoking at sea, and until recently this was done by farmers for their personal consumption, in addition to other tobacco intended for sale. Modern twist is occasionally lightly sweetened. It is still sold commercially, but rarely seen outside of Appalachia. Popular brands are Mammoth Cave, Moore’s Red Leaf, and Cumberland Gap. Users cut a piece off the twist and chew it, expectorating.

Plug chewing tobacco is made by pressing together cured tobacco leaves in a sweet syrup. Originally this was done by hand, but since the second half of the 19th century leaves were pressed between large tin sheets. The resulting sheet of tobacco is cut into plugs. Like twist, consumers sometimes cut, but more often bite off, a piece of the plug to chew. Major brands are Axton’s, Days Work, and Cannonball.

Scrap, or looseleaf chewing tobacco, was originally the excess of plug manufacturing. It is sweetened like plug tobacco, but sold loose in bags rather than a plug. Looseleaf is one of the more popular forms of tobacco in modern times. Among those, popular brands are Red Man, Beechnut, Mail Pouch and Southern Pride. Looseleaf chewing tobacco can also be dipped.

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