Smokers Have A Heartland Choice

Smokers Have A Heartland Choice
By: Arnold Wyrick

(Hamilton Co.)--A new brand of cigarettes being sold in the Heartland, is also being grown in the Heartland. A handful of Southern Illinois farmers have contracted with Vector Tobacco in North Carolina to grow a low nicotine brand in Hamilton County.

Vernon Mayberry of Broughton, IL is one of the farmers growing tobacco for the Vector Group. "It sounded a lot better then it turned out really to be. You've got so much labor tied up in it and chemicals. It's just a lot more hours and labor compared to other crops," says Mayberry. But the crop does make more compared to some crops Mayberry was thinking of growing on the 5 acre parcel of his land. " We got nearly 2200 pounds per acre off the crop, and one pound of tobacco makes 82 cartons of cigarettes," said Mayberry.

But the work is hard and most of it has to be done by hand. "You have to cut it off right at the ground with a corn knife by hand. Then it's got to be laid over a stick and hung to dry. Once that's completed you have to strip and sort each stalk by hand. There's no easy way to do it," Mayberry said.

The tobacco produces a low nicotine leaf that's used in Quest cigarettes being sold in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. The company producing Quest says those states make up nearly 30% of the nation's cigarette sales.

Quest cigarettes sell for around the same price as more popular brands on the market. And some smokers aren't so sure that they're worth it. "Well it wouldn't have no taste and if it didn't have none of that, it wouldn't be a cigarette," says John Pruitt of Broughton.

Larry Moore is a little more optimistic about Quest cigarettes. "Low nicotine would be all right, no nicotine, I don't think I'd want one of those," Moore said. "But something like that could help people quit smoking, or if not all the way at least cutback," says Moore.