Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Maryland tobacco farms, turning a tradition into potential health benefits

Surprise! A positive article about tobacco!

[The 2011 Charles County Fair Queen -- Queen Nicotina LXXVI -- is Ms. Meaghan Pfeiffer, who was sponsored by La Plata HS SGA. Ms. Jacqueline James was first runner-up and Ms. Kourtney Wathen was second runner-up.]

Ann Gerhart
The Washington Post
November 14, 2011

Can tobacco, the weed with a killer reputation, be the next miracle drug?

Warning: The subject of this exploration will constrict your blood vessels, choke your windpipe and dispatch you to an early grave, 5 million of you a year. The most lucrative crop the Americas have ever seen, it kept the British at bay, kept the enslaved entrapped, kept Hollywood sexy. Until it didn’t anymore.

Stipulation: Deep bows to the great public health triumph of wrestling Big Tobacco to the mat and changing human behavior. Never before were millions persuaded to give up a highly pleasurable, relatively cheap habit because it was bad for them. And never since.

But: Tobacco itself refuses to die. It’s stubborn. It’s meant to grow here. The seeds are tiny as a flea and germinate like crazy. In less than a month, you can have a robust green crop that’s good for much more than smoking. You can grow vaccines in it. Extract protein from it. Make drugs from it.

Ten years after Maryland became the only state to use its tobacco settlement money to pay hundreds of farmers to quit growing the evil sot-weed, it’s turning out that tobacco has redemptive virtues. Nobody needed to bother exploiting them before; the stuff was so fabulously successful for 400 years as a vice. Even nicotine, the natural and highly addictive chemical in tobacco, has its benefits.

People smoked in part because a cigarette could calm you down and pep you up. Now research studies are exploring exactly how nicotine may safely halt cognitive decline and help those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, schizophrenia and attention problems. The pure nicotine in the smoking cessation patch used in these studies is extracted from an American product that American farmers know how to grow.

Read more HERE.

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