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DIY cigarettes? Some smokers start growing tobacco

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    Posted: 20 Aug 2009 at 11:20pm
Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009
 
By STEVE SZKOTAK
Associated Press Writer

Something unusual is cropping up alongside the tomatoes, eggplant and okra in Scott Byars' vegetable garden - the elephantine leaves of 30 tobacco plants.

Driven largely by ever-rising tobacco prices, he's among a growing number of smokers who have turned to their green thumbs to cultivate tobacco plants to blend their own cigarettes, cigars and chew. Byars normally pays $5 for a five-pack of cigars and $3 for a tin of snuff; the seed cost him $9.

"I want to get to where I don't have to go to the store and buy tobacco, but I'll just be able to supply my own from one year to the next," Byars said.

In urban lots and on rural acres, smokers and smokeless tobacco users are planting Virginia Gold, Goose Creek Red, Yellow Twist Bud and dozens of other tobacco varieties.

Although most people still buy from big tobacco, the movement took off in April when the tax on cigarettes went up 62 cents to $1.01 a pack. Large tax increases were also imposed on other tobacco products, and tobacco companies upped prices even more to compensate for lost sales.

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.

Provided the tobacco isn't sold or traded, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate homegrown tobacco. Most people grow for cigarettes, but some blend their own cigars and chew.

The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture don't keep statistics on home growers, though seed suppliers and Internet buzz suggest strong interest.

Seedman.com has sold more than 100,000 packets of tobacco seeds this year, compared with 22,000 in all of 2008, president Jim Johnson said. The Gautier, Miss.-based company offers 40 varieties of tobacco from around the globe and packages various flavor blends for first-time growers.

A grower who purchased one of Johnson's Oriental and Turkish blends for $24.50 could satisfy a pack-a-day habit for more than three years, according to Johnson's calculations.

However, growing and processing tobacco can challenge even the best gardeners. The nearly microscopic seeds must initially be grown inside and transplanted after the threat of frost has passed.

The plants are susceptible to an army of pests; must be topped, or pruned, to encourage leaf growth; require rotating every few years; and require the proper chemical soil balance. The leaves must be cut and hung to dry.

A seed started in March can be 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, N.C., the No. 1 tobacco seed supplier in the U.S. "There's a reason why cigarette companies make all that money. If it was that easy, everyone would be growing their own tobacco."

Cross Creek has seen a big increase in seed requests from home growers but it sells in volume. It's smallest seed offering is 90,000 seeds for $170.

Novices and veterans can find smoker-friendly havens like howtogrowtobacco.com, a Web site that offers growing and curing tips, often including angry posts over ever-increasing taxes and smoking restrictions.

Many would not discuss their crops with The Associated Press, fearful a high profile would invite government scrutiny and taxes. Others proudly share stories and post photos.

Arthur Skora, 42, records his success growing and curing in Greenwood, Wis., on a how-to DVD he sells online.

"Most of the people who are ordering are just getting fed up with prices and basically they're not going to take it anymore," Skora said.

Saving money wasn't the only motivation for Matt Schoell-Schafer, a landscape architect in Kansas City, who has 50 plants growing in his urban garden.

"It's not being a victim to their manipulation of this product," said Schoell-Schafer, 34, who enjoys an occasional cigar or cigarette. "So I'm sort of liberating myself by growing it myself."

Some growers contend their tobacco concoctions are safer than commercial products, which have a stew of additives ranging from colorings and oils to ammonia.

"The quick answer to that is no," said Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society. Glynn knew of only one study of the health risks of homegrown and commercial blends - and it concluded no difference in safety between the two.

Homegrown tobacco can also contain fungus and mold, which can cause chronic bronchitis and other ailments, Glynn said.

Philip Morris USA, the nation's No. 1 cigarette maker, and other big companies are unlikely to shudder. Philip Gorham, a tobacco industry analyst with the investment research firm Morningstar, said he had no data on smokers who switched to homegrown. But he doesn't see it as a mass movement.

"It's one thing to switch from a premium brand to a discount one. It's quite another to switch from buying a manufactured product to roll your own," Gorham said.

At VirtualSeeds.com, Joyce Moore said she typically sold tobacco seeds as ornamental plants to gardeners who appreciated their elephantine leaves. This year, her Astoria, Ore.-based company was overwhelmed by orders from tobacco users slammed by "the market collapse, the recession, then getting hit with exorbitant tobacco taxes."

Moore doesn't use tobacco herself but has no misgivings about her business.

"If I sold doughnuts in a bakery would I feel guilty because fat people come in and buy them?" she asked. "It just happens to be a very good year for tobacco seeds."

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kipparing Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Aug 2009 at 11:26am
Increasing it's illegal to have or grow in aust.  But the amount of requests we get for "chop shop", it's easier to see how to get the seeds.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lymecaroline Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jul 2010 at 1:44pm
I thought I'd be tobacco users than raising their own tobacco.Presently law gives 1 / 4 acre. but if the word gets out,I'm sure Obama is the tax to death or to stop growing all together.I was twenty years old then and I smoked a pipe occasionally.One day I asked him enough to charge my pipe.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote David Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Jul 2010 at 4:05pm
For the individual growing it is one thing but drying it properly then actually managing to cut it fine enough to smoke is something else entirely.
 
I really think that if people are going to go down that path they would find someone to buy chop chop off before trying to grow it themselves. It is a lot harder with tobacco than dope which I think more people are inclinded to grow at home. 
 
I think the growing problem will become the counterfeit cirgarettes that are coming out of asia.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ARGH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jul 2010 at 4:41pm

I thought it was illegal in Australia to grow tobacco without a lisence.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote moonchildlady Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Aug 2010 at 12:34pm
 
Dear Steve Szkotak
Could you please tell me where to buy smoking tobacco seeds from. I am on a disability pension & find it hard to buy food, but now I find myself going with out food just to buy tobacco.
 
Your help will be greatfully received.
 
Best Wishes
Barbara
 
 
BEST WISHES
MOONCHILDLADY
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Aug 2010 at 2:03am
I thought I'd be tobacco users than raising their own tobacco.Presently law gives 1 / 4 acre. but if the word gets out,I'm sure Obama is the tax to death or to stop growing all together.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kipparing Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2010 at 3:26pm
In USA, 1/4 in some states, personal use only and sales are taxable (making the whole crop taxable) not in Australia,where its illegal to have the seeds.  This site is based, in australia.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote funkymonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2010 at 1:50pm
Originally posted by moonchildlady

 
Dear Steve Szkotak
Could you please tell me where to buy smoking tobacco seeds from. I am on a disability pension & find it hard to buy food, but now I find myself going with out food just to buy tobacco.
 
Your help will be greatfully received.
 
Best Wishes
Barbara
 
 


Me to  Barbara are you in Australia??? I am in SA i need to find cheap ones, or chop chop  sick of it, not fair life is hard enough i need my luxury. Cry
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gena Brearley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Sep 2010 at 9:54pm
It's a known fact that smoking causes different kinds of cancer and illnesses. Experts say that each time a person smokes, he or she is losing his/her life span.We live in the world where there are so many antie-smoking agencies and institutions that working against smoking.

As they say "health is wealth" and one of the biggest benefits of quitting smoking is a better health. It is really does not matter whether you've smoked for a few years or have been a chain smoker for 30 yrs. What does matter is that you decided to quit smoking and starting from this point, you will live a richer life with fewer illnesses and less time in a doctor's surgery.

Electronic Cigarettes - A New Style in Smoking
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Craig Hopes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2010 at 2:05pm
Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things to do. This is especially true for somebody who has smoked for several years. Smoking cessation does not have a lot of chance for success for those who try the cold turkey method. Even the anti-smoking drugs that are prescribed by a physician only have nominal success. The best way to stop smoking is to stop lighting up. Instead of lighting up, simply use the electric cigarettes to get the same smoking satisfaction.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote tobaccodave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Oct 2010 at 8:54am
i was googling for tobacco varieties and found this forum by chance.
I think i posted in the wrong section after i joined up.
Anyhow im australian, i have grown my own tobacco for 4 years.
Its a great hobby actually, and if the police were to knock on the door and tell me to stop id tell them where to go.
Its just a plant and i grow them openly. Like home brewing beer or growing your own grapes for your own vintage. Its natural part of life. If you are on the pension love and you cant afford  ridiculous prices , grow some tobaco in the backyard . Its supposed to be a free country.
By the way
American tobacco was fertilised almost exclusively after world war 1 by a company that used radioactive guano.
Prior to world war 1 people had smoked for centuries without getting cancer, and suddenly
it becomes a big problem. They noticed the phenomena at the time obviously and tried to figure out what had changed.
Well nicotine was always in tobacco , so it couldnt be the cause of cancer. And i dont use radioactive guano as fertiliser.
I simply stopped  believing all the hype on T.V.
 and if you can't afford to pay $600 a kilogram for your tobacco, grow your own and tell anyone who doesnt like it, to go jump.
I smoke around 8 kilograms of tobacco a year. and it grows free in my backyard as God intended.

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