Upcoming Vote Threatens Kentucky Tobacco

Reported by: Melanie Kendall
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Updated: 10/07/2013 11:25 pm

Every year Kentucky farmers export about 150 million pounds of tobacco to other countries because of how easily Kentucky tobacco combines with other flavors.

Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on proposed tobacco rules that would crack down on flavors in tobacco. 

“Kentucky is brown in different parts of the world but Kentucky tobacco is of the highest quality,” said Lucas Stevens, a third generation tobacco farmer.

Like other Kentucky tobacco farmers, he grows burley, a higher quality tobacco which easily accepts flavoring.

Kentucky farmers are worried their tobacco market could soon take a major hit if the European Parliament votes to crack down on additives in tobacco, which would ban burley since so many flavors are added to it.

“People buy them cigarettes for that taste, and when you take that out you're not left with much,” said Stevens.

Eight states raise burley but the majority is grown in Kentucky and Tennessee.  40% of Kentucky’s tobacco is exported to Europe.  Only 50 million pounds of it are kept in the US.

“You think about the market taking that big of a hit, I don't ever really want to imagine it,” said Stevens.

A ban in Europe could mean a drop in demand for the high-quality burley. 

“Just by the elimination of flavorings, could reduce demand for the burley,” said Tommy Yankey, Anderson County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.  “They may switch to some of the cheaper grades of tobacco.”

“I've done my entire life, and I would hate to see the day where I just have to quit and do something else,” said Stevens.

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