Tobacco is grown in more than one hundred countries. Tomatoes and tobacco are both members of the same botanical family. Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals.

Magazine - Tobacco


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by Claire Powell and Dave Collett

What’s in a cigarette? What’s in a puff?

Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals. Some of which are harmful, others deadly. Here are three of the deadliest.


Tar, a mixture of chemicals such as formaldehyde, arsenic and cyanide, can cause serious lung diseases. Seventy percent of the tar from tobacco smoke remains in the smoker’s lungs.


Many people are unaware that nicotine is more addictive than heroine. A powerful and fast-acting drug, nicotine reaches the brain in about seven seconds. One of the major effects of nicotine is an increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas formed when a cigarette is lit. The red blood cells absorb the gas more easily than oxygen, so up to fifteen percent of a smoker’s blood may be carrying carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. Breathing becomes more difficult because the heart has to work harder to pump less oxygen around the body.

From seed to smoke

What do tomatoes and tobacco have in common? They are both a member of the same botanical family. Tobacco is grown in more than one hundred countries with China being the largest producer, closely followed by the USA. Tobacco can grow well in poorer soils so a typical farmer can expect a good income from planting this crop.

Seeds and fertiliser are often provided by British American Tobacco. The seeds are so small that they must be protected in seedbeds for sixty days before transplanting to the field. Two weeks later, soil is carefully pushed up against the seedlings to further protect them and help to develop a good root system. Finally, after a couple of months, the flowering plants and some of the upper leaves are cut to allow more growth in the remaining leaves. The crop gradually grows towards the harvesting stage.


In most countries harvesting is done by hand. The farmer takes off a few leaves from the lower part of each plant. A typical farmer can expect to harvest about 15,000 plants. This is quite a lot considering each plant contains around 22 leaves.


There are four main methods.

Air-cured tobacco is hung in unheated, ventilated barns until the tobacco dries and the tobacco leaf becomes a light to medium brown colour.

Flue-cured tobacco is made when heat is introduced into a barn through pipes from a furnace outside. The leaves are heated until they turn yellow.

Sun-cured tobacco leaves are hung out on racks and exposed to the sun’s rays. The direct heat turns the leaves a yellow to orange colour.

For fire curing, wood is burnt under the tobacco leaves, which dries the tobacco and produces a smoky fragrance.


There are four stages in processing. Dirt is removed from the cured tobacco. The leaf is separated from the stem (a process known as threshing). The moisture content is checked carefully. The processed tobacco is packed into 200kg cardboard boxes, for shipping to manufacturing sites.


At the factory, the matured tobacco is checked for quality and then carefully blended with other ingredients which are needed for the brand recipe, such as flavourings.

Moisture content is crucial. Too dry and the tobacco leaf will crumble; too moist and it may spoil during storage. The blended tobacco is treated with just the right amount of steam and water to make it supple, and then cut into the form in which it appears in the cigarette. The cut tobacco is then given a quality check.

Cigarette making, once done entirely by hand, is today almost fully automated with the cut tobacco, cigarette paper and filters continuously fed into the cigarette-making machines.

Packing machines put the cigarettes into the familiar brand packs, wrap the packs in protective film and group them into cartons and cases. The completed cases, time-dated to ensure the freshest product possible, are then ready for distribution.


addictive (adj.): unable to stop doing something that can be dangerous.

arsenic (n.): a very strong poison that can kill people.

automated (adj.): from the verb automate - to make a process in a factory or office operate by machines or computers, in order to reduce the amount of work done by humans and the time taken to do the work.

brand (n.): a type of product made by a particular company.

crumble (v.): to break, or cause something to break, into small pieces.

spoil (v.): when something spoils or is spoilt, it is no longer good enough to use.

cure (v.): to treat food, tobacco, etc. with smoke or salt, etc. in order to stop it decaying, to preserve food.

cyanide (n.): a highly poisonous substance.

deadly (adj.): very dangerous.

fertiliser (n.): a natural or chemical substance used to make plants grow.

film (n.): a thin layer of plastic to cover and protect an object.

formaldehyde (n.): a strong smelling gas used for preservation.

fragrance (n.): a smell.

stem (n.): the stick-like central part of a plant which grows above the ground and from which leaves and flowers grow, or a smaller thin part which grows from the central part and which supports the leaves and flowers.

furnace (n.): a piece of equipment for heating a building.

income (n.): the money you receive from doing work.

puff (n.): an amount of smoke inhaled each time a smoker puts a cigarette to his/her mouth.

seedling (n.): a young plant grown from a seed.

supple (adj.): bending or able to be bent easily; not stiff.

ventilated (adj.): from the verb to ventilate, provide air to cause fresh air to enter and move around an enclosed space.





Unfortunately, yes, it is used by many people. Although recently the government has banned smoking in public facilities, including all the public service departments, such as hospitals, public transports, and commercial institutes, like restaurants and shops. Media campaigns against tobacco use have been constantly going on for many years. As a result, we surely witnessed a sharp drop in the number of smokers in population. However, there are still quite a large number of people addicted to it.

I don't smoke, personally. My father used to smoke a lot, but he gave it all up after he developed an episode of headache which was related to heavy smoking many years ago. He then never went back to smoking again. I think he showed a very strong power of self-control by doing that.

I strongly suggest a global ban on tobacco smoking. There are tons of scientific evidence indicating many health problems are directly or indirectly linked to tobacco, from lung cancer, high blood pressure to bowel cancer and diabetes. What's more it does not only harm the person who smokes, it also imposes threats to innocent people around the smokers. Not to mention the healthcare resources and financial burden it loads on the society. The transient pleasure from cigarettes is totally unworthy on such a high price from both individual and collective perspectives.

Is tobacco commonly used in your country?
Yes, in my country Taiwan that smoking and rolling tobacco is quite trendy for most Taiwanese people, particularly use by teenager and adult.
Do you smoke? Are you addicted? Have you tried to stop?
I do not smoke.
What do you think about smoking?
I think smoking is a bad behavior that increased the risks of dying on yourself and when you start smoking perhaps its affect people around you to add the chance of getting the second-hand hazard. In addition, cost of smoking is a huge amount of money. People should kick the habit not only keep your physical body more healthy but also save much more money you can.

Is tobacco commonly used in your country? yes in our country tobacco commonly used by our citizens,you will find easy the people smoking in public area , even though our country have regulation about it, but most of people still have not awareness even tendency to break the rule.

Do you smoke? Are you addicted? Have you tried to stop?of course i am not smoker

What do you think about smoking? smoking is something that bad for act ivies due to it bad for your healthy and you money, as you know in one cigarette many have Poisson such as tar,nicotine , and carbon monoxide ,

Tobacco is commonly used in my country, Italy - unfortunately there's not really a form of social reprovation for it, and the fact the State directly benefits from tobacco sells doesn't help.
I, myself, am a smoker and have been, on and off, since I was fifteen. I tried to stop once, and actually didn't smoke for almost a year, but the urge was very strong and my mood worsened because of it. In the end, I just indulged myself and started again. Since then, I've thought about quitting but haven't really found the will yet.
I think smoking is a stupid thing, bad for your health, your breath, your physical shape, but I'm hopelessly addicted to the (false) feeling of security that comes with it.

Very interesting! Even if I am an occasionally smoker I didn't know all this things!

Useful and interesting :)

Thank you so much ,I think it is useful .

I don't understand this sentence: The completed cases, time-dated to ensure the freshest product possible, are then ready for distribution. Akcent is on words time-dated.

Hello Marco V.

'Time-dated' here means that the date when the cases were sealed is stamped on them. It means we know how old they are and how fresh they are.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter

Is time-dated similar with expiration date?

Best regards,

Marko V.