What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us
Marketplace Scratch Pad

Do-it-yourself cigarettes

Scott Jagow Aug 21, 2009

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.

From the Charlotte Observer:

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.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.