Scott Benowitz looks at complexities relating to the future use of tobacco.

Although counterfeit cigarettes are more commonly found in parts of eastern Europe and in Asia than they are found in North America, law enforcement agencies do occasionally discover shipments of counterfeit cigarettes in the U.S. and Canada.  (The majority of the illicit cigarette trade in the U.S. involves genuine cigarettes which were stolen from the distributors.)

Counterfeit cigarettes are more dangerous than real cigarettes because nobody knows what ingredients are found in counterfeit products.  Counterfeit cigarettes are usually manufactured by organized crime groups, and they are popular because they are less expensive than genuine cigarettes.  Although cigarettes are a very dangerous product, the factories in which cigarettes are produced are subject to numerous stringent health and safety regulations.  

By contrast, the facilities in which people produce counterfeit products aren’t monitored by anybody, so anything could be included in them.  In recent years, dead insects as well as mouse and rat feces have been found in counterfeit cigarettes.

Recent Research Regarding Possible Genetic Links

No issues are ever entirely simple.  While the links between smoking and numerous diseases cannot be doubted, we sometimes see articles about people who reach their 90’s, and even centenarians who have been smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars for many years.  Scientists in a number of countries are researching whether genetic factors may contribute to some people being less vulnerable to the effects of smoking than others.

Tobacco Plants For Use In Scientific Research Projects

Scientists from a number of fields need to use tobacco plants for research projects and experiments in quite a few different fields.  Scientists throughout the world have learned a lot about genetic engineering techniques for plants by conducting experiments on tobacco plants.  

Some of the chemicals which naturally occur in some subspecies and strains of tobacco plants, including nicotine have been used as insect repellants since the late 17th century.  In recent years, insecticides which contain extracts from tobacco plants have been banned in both the U.S. as well as in the European Union.  

The chemicals which occur in some strains of tobacco are very effective when used as components in insecticides, and scientists in some countries are currently researching whether it is possible to use extracts from tobacco plants in insecticides without any potentially harmful effects to people who eat fruits and vegetables which have been grown on farms in which insecticides which contain extracts from tobacco plants have been used.  

I’m not proposing a complete elimination of growing tobacco throughout the world for this reason, though the amount of acreage which will be needed to grow the plants which will be used in scientific research will likely be minimal.

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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