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Tobacco is a member of the Solanacea family. Its history spans almost all cultures in the world as many cultures had long discovered its psychotropic properties. In fact, if an in depth analysis of the history of tobacco is succinctly analyzed, it can be conclusively surmised that tobacco is nothing short of an anthropological and cultural artifact. Tobacco use has been in the mainstream American society ever since the beginning of America as a nation. Since its had acquired a key space in the social fabric of both the urban and rural communities, it is only recently that the general public has accepted its drug connotation.
From the 1940s, 50s into the 70s a barrage of scientific research presentations began warning the general populace of the medical and social hazards of tobacco use but even these distinguished scientific personalities were reluctant to call tobacco an addictive drug, they instead referred to it as a habituating substance. These represents the initial reluctance to refer to tobacco as a drug as the term was bound to conjure up salient images of repugnance and loathsomeness. Later, tobacco was labeled as a drug as it met all the requirements for that pharmacological description. Apart from its addictive effect it had chemical substances that not only altered internal physiological functions. Sufficient exposure was predisposed the user to devastating health effects as well as predisposing one to the use of other drugs(Wilson & Kolander 2003).
Tobacco has devastating effects on the health of users and passive users. Cigarettes smoking which is the most predominant form of consumption predisposes the user to more than 4000 distinct chemical substances, 43 of which are known causative agents for cancer. Nicotine is one of the three basic tobacco smoke components. Nicotine causes addiction, induces cardiovascular pathological effects. After the onset of addiction low levels of addiction in the body cause the craving and withdrawal symptoms. High nicotine concentrations cause a toxic reaction exhibited as tremors, nausea and nervousness. Tar, which contains numerous other chemical substances, is the main causative agent for cancer. The third component; carbon monoxide is a by product of the combustion process. In acute carbon monoxide intoxication is fatal while chronic exposure is responsible for the damage of blood vessels walls and acceleration of atherosclerosis(Wilson & Kolander 2003). Other health effects include; emphysema, chronic bronchitis, infant mortality and stroke.
In this era of hand wringing over health care costs and budget deficits, the economic effects or tobacco use are extremely debilitating. Tobacco use costs the U.S government in excess of $75 billion only for medical costs and an excess of $82 billion in productivity losses. With an average of 442 thousand tobacco related deaths yearly the effects of tobacco use cannot be grimmer(Wilson & Kolander 2003).
Since tobacco use has for decades been perceived as modern and macho it has led to the development of very disturbing social habits. Smokers do smoke without regard to the fact that tobacco smoke may be offensive to non smokers. It is this insensitivity top other peoples lives that necessitated the creation of no smoking bans in certain public areas. Tobacco use predisposes individuals to other more dangerous drugs like alcohol and marijuana. The social effects of alcohol misuse in a society are far too reaching. Marijuana smoking or sniffing has been blamed for the progression to more dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Apart from school dropouts, crime and irresponsible sexual behavior, the pathological effects of these drugs are wiping out thousands of young individuals(Gullota et al 2005).
Wilson, W. Richard & Kolander, A. Cheryl. (2003). Drug Abuse Prevention: A School and Community Partnership. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 45-52
Gullotta, P. Thomas., Adams, R. Gerald & Ramos, M. Jessica (2005). Handbook of Adolescent Behavioral Problems: Evidence-based Approaches to Prevention and Treatment. Springer Press.