The little guy is taking on the big tobacco companies again, but not in the way you might think. This year, there’s been a big increase in the number of people growing their own tobacco in the backyard.
Some seed suppliers have reported a tenfold increase in sales as some of the country’s 43.3 million smokers look for a cheaper way to get their nicotine fix in a down economy. Cigarettes cost an average of $4.35 a pack; home growers can make that amount for about 30 cents.
It’s the latest do-it-yourself movement as others repair their own cars, swap used clothes and cancel yard work services to save money.
“Cigarette smokers say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to die of cancer, but do we have to die of poverty as well?'” said Jack Basharan, who operates The Tobacco Seed Co. Ltd. in Essex, England. Virtually all of his increased tobacco seed sales have been in the U.S., he said.
Of course, growing and processing tobacco isn’t easy:
The nearly microscopic seeds must initially be grown inside and transplanted after the threat of frost has passed.
A seed started in March can be harvested, hung to dry and ready to smoke as soon as October. Some anxious growers have been known to microwave leaves to hasten the drying. For purists, the leaves can be cured, or aged, like a fine wine for up to three years.
“It’s actually very labor intensive,” said Ed Baker, general manager of Cross Creek Seed Inc. in Raeford, the No. 1 tobacco seed supplier in the U.S. “There’s a reason why cigarette companies make all that money.”
Just thought it was an interesting trend to point out.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.