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Folklore and Trivia

  • Tobacco is native to the Americans, and the practice of inhaling the smoke of the dried leaves has been documented in the Mayan culture more than 2,000 years ago. The Mayans moved northward from Central America through the Aztec empire and eventually took their customs to the north american Indian tribes. The Arawak Indians of the Caribbean smoked tobacco. Christopher Columbus, during his 1492 voyage found them smking loosely rolled cigars.


    American Indians believed it to process medical properties. It was important in Idian ceremonials, such as the smoking of pipe of peace.

    JEAN NICOT, French Ambassador to Lisbon, Portugal, is said to have sent the seed to Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France. He gave the plant its generic name, Nicotiana, Sir Walter Raleigh began the popularization of pipe smoking in Great Britain in 1586, and the cultivation and consumption of tobacco spread each voyage of discovery from Europe.

    Two kinds of tobacco were traded between Europe and America: Spanish, from the West Indies and South America, and Virginia, from what is now the Statte of Virginia. The Spaniards were the first Europeans to cultivate substantial amount of tobacco. Despite its popularly in England, James I who vehemently disapproved of tobacco forbade its production there.

    Europeans at first smoked their tobcco in pipes and later in cigars. Cigarettes spread in popularly only after the Crimean War (1854-56); their spread was aided by the development in the United States of the first cigarette0making machine in 1831.

    Tobacco is a tall, herbaceous plant the leaves of which are harvested, cured and rolled into cigars, shredded for use in cigarettes and pipes, as well processsed for chewing or snuff. It is an important crop in almost all tropical countries as well as in many temperate ones.

    The main source of commercial tobacco orient, although Nicotiana rustica is also grown and used in oriental tobacco.

    Growers have developed a wide range of morphologically different types, from the small-leaved aromatic tobacco to the large, broad-leaved cigar tobacco. The most practical means of classifying them is by the method used ofr curing or drying the leaf.

    Common tobacco may grow to a height of 4-6 feet, when not topped. The flowers, borne in a pinacle, normally self-fertile, are usually pink but maybe carmine or white.

    Unlike most agricultural crops, tobacco has a small seed (1 oz = 300,000 seeds), which cannot be sown directly in the field. Seedlings are raised in carefully selected and tended seedbeds where protection is given against heavy rain and excess sun. Young seedlings are then planted out by hand or mechanical transplanter, and spacing between seedlings and rows varies with the kind of tobacco and with the location. The crop needs a minimum of 120 frost-free days and can be grown in a variety of soils.

    Producing disease-free/resistant tobacco of acceptable quality is difficult, because the plant is susceptible to many diseases. Chemical control is now widely practiced, although thhe choice of chemicals is limited by the need to ensure that they do not taint the tobacco when it is smoked.

    In the Philippines, tobacco harvesting or priming is done leaf by leaf, after harvesting, are tied together in pairs on curing sticks or strings.

    China is the world's leading tobacco grower, the United States is a distant second, followed by India and Brazil. Italy, Indonesia, Turkey, Greece and Zimbabwe are also major tobacco producers. The Philippines ranks 13th among world tobacoo growers.


    • Tobacco is the world's leading non-food crop. It is grown in more than 100 countries. China, USA, Brazil, India, Turkey and Zimbabwe are the world's leading producers.

    • Tobacco has been traded internationally for over 400 years. 33 million people are employed through tobacco growing and early stage processing. 100 million in all, when related industries are included and 90% of them in the developing world.

    • About 75 developing countries are responsible for 80% production. The tobacco crop has a multiplier effect on national economies - estimated to be 4.3 times the cost of production.

    • Steadily increasing demand and relatively stable prices mean that tobacco is one of the most appealing crops for farmers. It offers high security of income. It is a highly labor intensive crop - high skills are needed to grow tobacco and this benefits all other crops grown by the farmer.

    • Tobacco cultivation also provides opportunities for woment and unskilled workers. It helps contain "urban drift" in developing countries.

    • Tobacco can be grown on a wide range of soil types and positions. the burley crop is ideally suited for dry hillsides, which cannot sustain other crops.

    • More than 4.3 million hectares are planted with tobacco, only 0.3% of all cropland and less than half that devoted to coffee.

    • Tea, coffee and sugar are inhibited by international quotas, tobacco is not.

    • Tobacco is grown in rotation with other cash and food crops. In Brazil, a survey of 1,000 farmers found that it provided four times the income per hectare than other rotational crops.

    • In developing countries, tobacco leaf sales can be a major source of foreign exchange earnings - it provides 70% of foreign exchange earnings for Malawi and 30% for Zimbabwe.

    • Tobacco provides a major revenuw source for many developing countries, e.g.
      • Pakistan - 40% of all excise and 10 % of total government revenue
      • Philippines - 20% of all government revenue
      • Brazil - 6% of all government revenue
      • Malawi - income tax from tobacco-related employment provides 11% of government revenue.

    • For developed and developing nations, tobacco is a major source of employment, excise and taxation revenue and economic impetus.

    • The Philippines holds the largest menthol cigarette market in the world with the sector accounting for between 62% and 65% of the total cigarette market.

    • Single stick sales account for 63% of cigarette sales.

    • 'Champion' produced by Fortune Tobacco Corporation is the leading cigarette brand in the country, followed by Marlboro and Philip Morris 100s.

    • An estimated 50% of Philippine population smoke with approximately 65% of males and 35% of females aged 15 years and over are regular smokers.

    • Filipinos spent PhP17.2 billion on tobacco products in 1997. Tobacco accounted for 2.55 of total personal consumption during the year, down from 2.6% in 1996.

    • Cigarettes are one of the most popular duty-free items in the Philippines.