It is always interesting to chart the history of any product, and few have as broad and varied a history as chewing tobacco. Today it makes for one of the biggest industries in the world, and it is one that attracts considerable attention at that. There can be no doubt that few substances have seen as interesting a genesis or lifespan as has tobacco chew, from its humble origins in North America to its place today as a product consumed by millions.
The first examples of chewing tobacco can trace back all the way to the many indigenous cultures that populated pre-Columbian North and South America. Tobacco usage remains an important religious and cultural practice for many different tribes. Many brands today can trace their roots to the 19th century, which is something that makes chewing tobacco popular with both its consumer base and cultural historians alike. The brands that tend to sell the best today are often those that offer a wide variety of different “blends,” each of which represents the process of years of scientific study, research, and cultivation. Without a doubt, few substances have played a bigger role in shaping America’s socio-economic, political, and cultural identity throughout the centuries—just one example of the cultural power of tobacco around the world.
One of chew’s classic selling points has long been its association with traditional notions of masculinity, as well as its low and affordable price (comparable to other tobacco products). There are many different ways in which chew tobacco is packaged and sold today, each of which caters to different consumer expectations. For example, loose-leaf tobacco consists of shredded tobacco leaf, and thus differs from plug or twist chew tobacco. Of these varieties, plug is unique because it is traditionally not sweetened and can likewise be smoked in a pipe, as well as chewed.
With so many varieties and a long history that attracts consumers and cultural historians like, chewing tobacco is a product that continues to fascinate.