british american tobacco australia - History of tobacco

Tobacco has been smoked for at least the last three thousand years. Christopher Columbus found it when he landed in the Americas in 1492, but ancient temple carvings show tobacco being smoked in Central America as long ago as 1,000 BC.

Ever since it arrived in Europe in the late 15th century, tobacco has divided opinion, sparked controversy, and generated substantial revenue through tax. Tobacco has periodically been subject to royal disapprovals, the whims of fashionable use, medicinal studies, smuggling, trade disputes, and bans.

You can read more about the history of tobacco from its early uses through to the present on the website of British American Tobacco Group Opens in new window.

In Australia

By 1840, about 160 hectares of tobacco were under cultivation within 160 kilometres of Sydney. Commercial leaf growing began in the 1860's around Myrtleford in Victoria and in southern Queensland in the 1880s. By 1889, about 3,000 tonnes of air-cured leaf was produced.

Manufacturing activity goes as far back as the 1820s and, by 1901, Australian manufactured tobacco products supplied 40 per cent of the local market.

Domestic manufacturing boomed during the early 20th century, expanding to supply more than 90 per cent of the Australian market by the 1920s.

From 1930 to 1960, significant changes occurred in the growing and manufacturing industries. The cultivation of a lighter coloured leaf and the introduction of flue-curing resulted in a concentration of tobacco farming in areas suited to that style of leaf. Shifts in consumer preferences to manufactured cigarettes and away from other forms of tobacco also changed production techniques.

In May 1936, Commonwealth support for the tobacco growing industry began with the first Local Leaf Content Scheme. Under this system, manufacturers paid a concessional rate of duty on imported leaf provided they used a stipulated percentage of Australian leaf. Between 1936 and 1955 this requirement increased slowly, but more frequent increases between 1957 and 1966 resulted in a statutory requirement for 50 per cent Australian leaf for both cigarettes and tobacco.

In 1965, the Tobacco Industry Stabilisation Plan was introduced to support growers by providing them with a stable market. Marketing boards were established in each of three tobacco growing States - Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and marketing quotas were established for individual growers.

Following the an inquiry by Industry Commission into the tobacco growing and manufacturing industries, the Local Leaf Content Scheme and the Tobacco Industry Stabilisation Plan were terminated on 31 December 1994. As part of this industry restructuring, tobacco growing in New South Wales ceased in the same year.

With declining volumes and increased global competition, Australian tobacco growers experienced business difficulties. In response to a request from the Tobacco Cooperative of Victoria (TCV) to discuss an end to tobacco growing, British American Tobacco Australia investigated its options and decided that it would only purchase imported leaf. The contracts with domestic farmers ceased in 2006.

Page last updated: 07/05/2010 16:23:54 GMT