SOUTH BOSTON, VA. — It hits you the moment you walk into the Banner Warehouse - the sweet, pungent aroma of flue-cured tobacco, piled up in rows waiting to be auctioned off.
Mix that with the odor of the final product in use, mainly cigarettes but also some chewing tobacco. In this era of the banished smoker, no building could be more hospitable to the enjoyment of such a deadly product.
But talk to the warehouse owner or the tobacco farmers and you'll get a decidedly mixed view about the actual use of their wares.
Even Andy Anderson, co-owner of Banner Warehouse, just gave up smoking after 35 years. "I was enjoying it too much," he says with a grin, admitting he was suffering from shortness of breath.
But he still has no qualms about being in the business of selling a product that critics link to the deaths of millions of people. "Everything I've ever had in my life comes from tobacco," Mr. Anderson says proudly, displaying the kind of compartmentalized thinking that's typical in tobacco country.
Many in the tobacco-growing business don't smoke, and don't want their loved ones to smoke.
And many tobacco farmers support federal efforts to limit youth access to cigarettes. But when it comes to adult smoking, they turn vehement: It's a legal product, and the "lifestyle police" in Washington should leave smokers alone.
Farmer Hudson Reese, owner of a 155-acre farm in Scottsville, Va., isn't a smoker. But he thinks the far greater scourge to society's welfare is alcohol. "Go to help at a car wreck where someone's been drinking, and you'll see what I mean," he says.