Remember I wrote a couple days about about Bowling Green, Kentucky’s, smoking ban? A pair of interesting articles about Kentucky and Tennessee’s relationship with tobacco. Kentucky was 20 years ago the No. 1 tobacco-producing state in the nation. It also has historically been No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation for smoking rates, and it also leads the nation in highest lung cancer rate (76 per 100,000 people each year, versus 52 per 100,000 people in the U.S. as a whole.). In 1990, the tobacco growing industry in Kentucky alone generated $900 million in revenue. By 2009, that figure had dropped to $380 million, less than one-half.
And yet, fewer places in Kentucky are allowing smoking. The two biggest cities — Louisville and Lexington, have banned smoking, and Bowling Green, the third biggest city, joined them last week. Several other cities such as Frankfort and Paducah also ban smoking. I think it’s amazing anywhere in Kentucky bans smoking when tobacco is so entrenched in the state (By comparison, few major cities in Alabama have banned smoking).
In adjacent Tennessee, the bottom has dropped out the cigarette tobacco business, so how have farmers adjusted. Unfortunately, many of them have simply switched to growing chewing tobacco, which is increasing in use (partly because of smoking bans). Instead of switching to corn or wheat, they’re not buying a clue and switching to another deadly, addictive product. That’s a bummer … and disappointing. Acreage in Tennessee and Kentucky devoted to cigarette tobacco has decreased 40 percent in recent years, but acreage devoted to chewing tobacco has increased 22 percent.
C’mon farmers. Plow that shit under. Grow something else. Soybeans. Canola. Dope. Anything. Anything but tobacco.