History of oral health: tobacco changes, but the dangers don't

Tobacco has a long history dating back centuries. It’s one of the world’s biggest public health threats today, killing more than 8 million people each year.1 Here’s a look at how tobacco products have changed over the years.

6,000 B.C.

The first tobacco plants are believed to have grown in the Americas. By about 1 B.C., indigenous people began smoking tobacco, taking it as medicine and using it in cultural ceremonies.


Snuff, a smokeless tobacco, was named “snus” in Sweden. Because it was expensive and sold in cans made of silver or gold, snus became a status symbol and popular gift among the upper class.


Chewing tobacco became widespread in the U.S. Baseball players and coaches used it to produce saliva to moisten their mouths and gloves. Cancer deaths led the sport to ban smokeless tobacco in the 1990s.


Cigarettes peaked in popularity throughout this century. Packs of cigarettes were widely distributed to soldiers in World War I and II.


E-cigarettes were introduced in Europe and the United States, and later identified as tobacco products. Today, vaping with these devices is more popular than smoking cigarettes among high schoolers.

There is no safe tobacco product. Tobacco can increase your risk of cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, cheeks, gums, lips and tongue. It can also cause cavities, stained teeth, bad breath, gum disease, receding gums and tooth loss. It’s best to avoid using any tobacco to protect your oral and overall health.