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August 25, 2021

Smokers get resourceful, grow their own tobacco in downturn

You might ask a lot of things about smokers.

You might say, ‘Geez, how can these people continue to kill themselves like this?’ Or maybe you’ll question, ‘I wonder what smells worse, a smoker’s breath or a dutch oven from John Goodman.’

But there is one thing we know for sure about smokers, and that is none – and I mean none – of them enjoy paying the outrageous, tax-crazy and ever-climbing price for a pack of darts.

So imagine the surprise in Smoker Nation when the recession hit last year. Now, suddenly a habit fuelled largely by disposable income began to take up necessary, bill-paying income because, frankly, throwaway cash for many was no longer a reality.

What did they do, then? Quit? Please. No, the smokers hit back.

In their best effort to flick ashes at both the downturn and Big Tobacco, many smokers across North America have turned to growing their own tobacco as a means to support the pricey habit during this recession.

According to the Associated Press, instances of tobacco growing have boomed “tenfold” across the rural U.S. as seed suppliers rejoice in their newfound fortunes.

Sites like Seedman.com tell the AP they’ve sold 100,000 packets of tobacco seeds already this year – a Queen Latifah-sized leap over the mere 22,000 packs hawked in 2008.

And when you consider how inexpensive the process can be on a large scale (not only can you make the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes for about 30 cents, one particular $24.50 seed kit could satisfy a pack-a-day habit for more than three years, says the AP), it makes you wonder why more smokers haven’t taken the plunge into the world of home tobacco horticulture.

Well, as it turns out, tobacco growing isn’t all just roll-roll, puff-puff. The process involving microscopic seeds and inside-to-outside transplants and pruning and rotating is apparently quite complicated – maybe even too much for the large majority of smokers to undertake.

Still, in this economy the prospect of saving money has swayed many into the labour intensive process. Besides, when quitting is too obvious an alternative, smokers need to get creative when the money runs tight.

As Jack Basharan, operator of the U.K.-based Tobacco Seed Co. Ltd., tells the AP, this logic takes hold of a smoker during a recession:

“Cigarette smokers say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to die of cancer, but do we have to die of poverty as well?’”

Amen to that, Jack. Amen.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...