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.





Hi All,
Smoking is injurious to health labeled on cigarette pack even though peoples are  not able to stop because of addictive. peoples believes cigarette smoking will improve mind refreshment and able to get new thoughts, how far is it correct ??
Badly, most of the peoples are addictive for cigarette during college days, students will attract more because they will feel its a stylish activity. we should bring awareness in peoples what cigarette cause the damage and what happen internal our body when we smoke.
Stopping a cigarette is not a big deal, in market there are different types of gums  are available it smell like a cigarette. Instead of smoking they can use gums to eliminate their smoking habit.

People are not smoker by birth. Consciously or unconsciously we are making or teaching them to be a smoker. Now once they are smoker we are doing the more difficult job. That is spreading awareness to stop smoking. Human world is driven by money. So it is impossible to stop smoking from root. Government will never ban the smoking. Why should they do this? So much earning will stop immediately! Earning from tax, then health care, then awareness.

Non smoker will not understand why stop smoking is difficult for smoke. Because body and brain (thinking) both create the addiction. Whoever stopped smoking after a long time of using it is having good will power. That’s the currently available most reliable tool to stop smoking. But after reading few statistics in my friend circle I found fear is one factor which helps to raise the will power. But of course I will say at the same time that still they are very vulnerable.
On the other hand smoking change a way of living. I feel (as a smoker) it helps to reduce depression or isolation or any pressure (work or other). But this is illusion. Now I love it to keep it. But I wish people should not start it. I think not starting is much easier. Whoever has started let them face their destiny if they do not stop it. Lastly just keeping one unanswered question for discussion that what fascinate others to start smoking?

I  am sorry for see children in my city that smoking after school and their paretns does't know
 I think if you don't try smoking in your high school life your will not try it after that

I live in Spain but I am not from here. when I arrived in here I got really impressed to see how much young people smoke here. In my opinion, Spanish people smoke too much. I am happy for the new law that avoid smoking in restaurants and public places cos , as a not smoker, I can't stand cigarette smoke. I am not a "good" passive smoker. . It irritates my nose and eyes.
Smoking is a terrible addiction. I am grateful of having been educated in a culture which consider smoking a nocive action for the health. Besides that, in summer, throwing away a cigarette lit butt in the countryside might cause wildfires.As it happened this summer in Catalunya. 

Hi,everyone.there is no any person who is smoking in my family and I used to do it.But I  understand about that and smoking has been stopped by my self.I also want to tell everybody,if u like and want to stop it u will be able to do it.

the addiction of smoking is responsible for people health deterioration which might be put their family happiness at risk...

Hi everyone, I'm from Viet Nam, I'm going to learn English, but I don't  know what is the best method, can you hepl me?

Hello Vipak!
Welcome to LearnEnglish – you've come to the right place for help! If you live near one of the British Council centres in Vietnam you could take a class there. If you want to study on your own, make sure you do some English every day. You could start with listening to our Elementary English podcast, or try some of our language games. You can talk to other learners in the comments area on each of our pages. The most important thing to remember is that learning a language takes time and effort – good luck!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

The audio is very informative and educational.
Would you please add some more tasks with every topic(like elementary level podcast activities which are very good tools for learners ) so that we can judge our understanding and language ability by practicing more.