What is Tobacco?
Tobacco is a plant (Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica) that contains nicotine. Tobacco leaves are used in a variety of ways. Traditional tobacco is a sacred medicine used in a variety of Indigenous cultural practices, such as tobacco ties, prayer sticks, smudges, and sacred offerings. Traditional tobacco promotes physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being. Commercial tobacco is mass manufactured by multi-billion-dollar companies and sold for profit. Tobacco leaves are used in manufacturing cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and a range of other products. These products always contain chemicals and additives that are linked with disease and death. When we use the term ‘tobacco’ on this webpage, we refer only to commercial uses of tobacco.
Tobacco is used to make a variety of products that can be used in different ways:
- Smoked in cigarettes, cigars or pipes
- Smoked in loose form in hookahs (water pipes)
- Sniffed as dry snuff
- Held inside the lip or cheek as wet snuff
- Mixed with cannabis and smoked in “joints.”
Tobacco is legally produced by three big companies in Canada. Federal, provincial and municipal laws control tobacco manufacturing, marketing, distribution and use.
Facts About Smoking
Cigarettes are thin rolls of tobacco wrapped in paper. When ignited, cigarettes produce smoke that is then inhaled. This smoke doesn’t just contain nicotine – it also contains between 4,000 to 7,000 chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer.2 Just a few of these chemicals are: carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust), arsenic (rat poison), lead, and butane (lighter fluid).
- CAMH. (n.d.). Tobacco. https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/t…
- Canadian Cancer Society (n.d.). Cigarettes-the hard truth. Canadian Cancer Society. https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/reduce-your-risk/live-smoke-fre…