The Central Tobacco Research Institute works on flue cured viginia (FCV) tobacco. FCV tobacco is used in cigarettes. Tobacco has several other uses and CTRI will continue researching the same, said Dr. C Panduranga Rao, who heads CTRI’s research station in Hunsur, Karnataka.
Tobacco seeds, unlike tobacco leaves, do not contain nicotine. Oil can be extracted from these seeds and used for regular consumption. “Tobacco oil, from seeds, is not popular. But the same was the case with sunflower oil years ago,” Rao said.
An alkaloid named solanesol can be extracted from tobacco and used to treat heart disease, Rao said.
The tobacco plant is ideally suited for genetic studies and CTRI can focus on all these areas and others in the future, Rao said.
At CTRI, tobacco leaves are cured in temperatures of up to 150 degrees centigrade because this helps in developing aroma. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh alone produce some 270 million tons of cigarette tobacco, 80 percent of which is exported, Rao said.
Small farmers will be hit the most if and when India decides to start reducing the acreage under tobacco cultivation, in line with Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) guidelines, he said.
Tobacco growers in India are up in arms about the World Health Organization’s guidelines, to which India is a signatory, according to a Business Line report. India netted around Rs. 4,200 crore from tobacco exports during the 2011-12 financial year, according to the report.