Home-grown tobacco 'far healthier' - mum

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 11/01/2014
DAILY NEWS ONLINE

Taranaki tobacco may soon be cropping up everywhere.

Eileen Austin with home-grown tobacco
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
ORGANIC OFFERING: Eileen Austin has never smoked a cigarette but she grows tobacco in her backyard. While it is illegal to sell or give away homegrown tobacco in New Zealand, it is legal to buy the seeds, grow the plants and smoke the product yourself.

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Eileen Austin doesn't smoke but she knows a thing or two about growing fine-tasting tobacco.

And, she says, it is a lot easier than people think.

The 58-year-old has been growing tobacco for more than a year and says that, with the rising price of cigarettes, homegrown tobacco is becoming increasingly popular.

"It's so expensive to smoke and this is basically free," she says.

Yesterday's Daily News carried the story of a Southland woman and her partner who save $60 a week by growing their own tobacco.

A 10 per cent tax hike on tobacco was introduced on New Year's Day, and two more rises are set to happen over the next two years.

The rising cost is a Government initiative to drive smokers to give up and enable the country to be smoke-free from 2025.

Although a 30-gram pouch of tobacco now costs around $40, it was not money that spurred the Bell Block woman into action.

Her son, Karl, who suffers from sarcoidosis, tried to give up smoking but found it difficult because of medical reasons associated with his illness. Sarcoidosis causes inflammation of body tissue, particularly lungs and skin.

"I didn't want him having all of the added chemicals in his body that are put into tobacco nowadays, so I started growing tobacco," she says.

"At least now if he is going to smoke, it's organic"

What started out as a small project has become a labour of love for Mrs Austin, who dries, cures and cuts the tobacco herself.

The plants, which she grew from seeds, now stand about 2 metres tall.

Although they are last year's crop and are starting to go to seed, Mrs Austin has enough tobacco to last her son for months.

After growing, harvesting and drying the leaves, Mrs Austin sprays the tobacco with home-brew whisky to add flavour to the smoke.

"The whole process from growing to smoking only takes a matter of months and it's really simple.

"And far healthier," she says.

When smoked, the tobacco is surprisingly smooth, and Mrs Austin says her son thinks it is as good as what he can buy in the shops.

"It smells different though. It smells like my father's old pipe, back when tobacco was natural.

"It takes you down memory lane," she said.

Although it is illegal to sell or give away homegrown tobacco in New Zealand, it is legal to grow the plant and smoke it yourself.

The latest census results show that just over 15 per cent of the adult population smoke.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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