tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cheap cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.


New Mexicans react to federal tobacco bill

Forty-five years after the 1964 release of the Surgeon’s General Report on Smoking and Health that linked smoking to lung cancer, this week’s signing of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act marks another milestone in the time line of commercial tobacco in the United States.

On Monday, President Obama signed the law, which will allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce nicotine in tobacco products, ban candy flavorings and block labels such “low tar” and “light.”

The law does not let the FDA ban nicotine or tobacco outright, but the agency will be able to regulate what goes into tobacco products, make public the ingredients and prohibit some marketing campaigns, especially those geared toward children.

The bill is not without controversy, however, including in New Mexico, where smoking remains a primary public health concern. An estimated 40,000 New Mexicans are living with serious tobacco-related illnesses, including emphysema, lung cancer and cardiovascular problems.

Some have pointed to Philip Morris USA’s endorsement of the bill as a sign that it is too friendly toward the companies that sell commercial tobacco. Some analysts argue that Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in the United States, was looking to solidify its market share by supporting the bill.

Following trends across the nation, today’s smokers are more likely to be poor and to have lower educational status, in part due to the disproportionate advertising by the tobacco industry among such communities. This has led to efforts such as STOMP — Stop Tobacco on My People — a statewide network dedicated to eliminating the health inequities related to smoking.

Dr. Dona Upson, a pulmonologist in Albuquerque and chair of the American Lung Association of New Mexico, is guardedly optimistic toward the new law.

“I do think this is a good step toward decreasing tobacco use and toward decreasing marketing of tobacco to youth,” Upson told NMI, noting that the primary goal of the tobacco industry is to get new, young people addicted.

She noted that there is controversy over menthol being permitted in the new law. This is a flavoring put into cigarettes that make them easier to tolerate, an attribute that is especially important to lure in new smokers. Mentholated cigarettes represent 25 percent of the cigarette market, and are smoked more by African Americans. According to the American Lung Association, 67 percent of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 16 percent of white smokers. The exclusion of a ban on menthol in the law has drawn criticism from anti-tobacco organizers and educators in minority communities, with some organizations withdrawing their support for the bill.

Upson said she would have preferred that the bill banning menthol flavoring but thinks such a provision would have killed the bill, since these cigarettes represent a large part of the market.

Natalie Thomas, a member of Laguna Pueblo and the co-facilitator of the Southwest Tribal Tobacco Coalition, has a different perspective on the issue.

Thomas’ tribe, along with most American Indian tribes, hold tobacco as a sacred part of life and culture.

“We see how our images are misused to sell commercial tobacco, often sending signals that this is connected to ceremonial uses of tobacco that are thousands of years old.”

Natalie and others are educating local tribes on the traditional uses and importance of tobacco as a way to prevent smoking among youth and to encourage smoking cessation. For instance, a current campaign called “Breathe tradition, not addiction” looks to re-connect Native youth with the ceremonial, medicinal, and traditional uses of the various types of traditional tobacco, which unlike the Nicotiana tabacum used in commercial tobacco, range from sage to lavender.

Such efforts provide education about the harmful effects of smoking and commercial tobacco. “For Native people, the issue is not to get rid of tobacco, but to regain a sense of how it is to be used,” Thomas said.

She is skeptical that the new law will have much influence on tribes like hers.

“Looking at how the ban on smoking in public places in New Mexico excluded Native nations in the name of protecting our sovereignty, under the influence of heavy lobbying from casinos and the prospect of gaining tax revenue off tobacco products sold on tribal land, I am worried that my people will never see the positive effects of this law,” she added.

Furthermore, she has concerns that this law will over-burden the FDA and may give an inside path for tobacco companies to get ingredients approved for their products without adequate health data.

Dr. Terry Gerace is an epidemiologist who has devoted his career to creating and running the Toxic Tobacco Law Coalition, a national organization to end the sale of tobacco products in the U.S. while still allowing adults to import commercial tobacco from abroad.

“It is a red flag to all of us when Phillip Morris, the nation’s wealthiest tobacco company supports the legislation,” says Gerace. “They are certainly not going to support something that will hurt their long-term profitability.”

Gerace’s criticism of the bill revolves around some provisions in which the role of industry and government are blurred.

“It is absolutely unprecedented for industry representatives to serve as advisors for an FDA panel, for industry to fund the national office meant to regulate that same industry (in this case, the Federal Office on Tobacco that will be created) and likewise ethically troublesome that this law will now legitimize the all-American image the tobacco industry wants to create, since they will be part of the government,” he said.

It remains to be seen how effectively the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act achieves its goal of reducing the number of smokers and the amount smoking-related sicknesses and premature deaths in the United States.

For now, local critics and supporters alike will have to wait until the smoke clears, see how well the act is funded, and hope that this new law of the land can do all it is promised to do.
© Copyright: Newmexicoindependent

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