Tobacco is a broadleaf plant and is part of the nightshade family. People inhale, chew, or smoke dried tobacco leaves. The tobacco leaves contain nicotine, an addictive compound. Tobacco users claim that smoking, inhaling, or chewing the dried leaves has both an invigorating and calming effect on users, while scientists have now proven that tobacco use increases chances for various types of cancer and lung ailments. Indigenous to North, Central, and South America, farmers now grow varieties of this crop on six of the seven continents.
Tobacco is generally associated with warmer climates with long growing seasons. The first tobacco planted commercially in North America was in Jamestown, Virginia, during the early 1600s. Once it was discovered that tobacco grew well in the Virginia soil and climate, many white Virginians began planting the crop to sell in Europe. Europeans during this period believed that tobacco was a medicine. During the early 1600s, some pharmacies in Europe claimed that tobacco would cure people of any disease that afflicted their bodies from the waist up. Tobacco cultivation eventually spread into North and South Carolina, Maryland, and Kentucky, although people across the Southern and Midwestern United States commonly grew some tobacco, usually for their own personal use.
During the late 1700s and the early 1800s, white Ohioans also planted tobacco. The crop never gained the popularity among Ohio farmers as it did among farmers further south, but a commercial market did develop for Ohio-grown tobacco. Ohio farmers continue to grow tobacco today. In 1992, Ohio farmers produced almost twenty-one million pounds of tobacco.