Tobacco Industry Worker
Tobacco Industry Worker
Education and Training: None
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Tobacco and cigarette manufacturing workers process raw tobacco into finished products. They prepare tobacco for manufacturing, and they manufacture cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, several types of chewing tobacco, and snuff.
Tobacco farmers cure, sort, and grade tobacco for sale at auctions where representatives of processing plants purchase the cured produce. In the processing plants workers operate machines that strip tobacco leaves from the stems and send them on conveyor belts to steam-heated ovens. Here, redrying machine operators remove the moisture from the tobacco and cool the strips with fresh air. After workers check the moisture content, they pack the tobacco into large barrels. The tobacco is then aged for at least two years in tobacco sheds.
The aged tobacco is then shipped to another factory, where workers blend the various grades in large drums. Each tobacco manufacturer uses its own formula for blending. After blending, the tobacco's natural flavor is sweetened and chemicals are added to preserve the right degree of moisture. The tobacco is kept in air-conditioned rooms for twenty-four hours. Then workers shred and fluff the tobacco and dry it in rotary dryers.
When making cigarettes, workers place the shredded tobacco in a mixing machine. Then they feed the mixed tobacco into a complex machine. This machine covers the tobacco with cigarette paper, forms the cigarettes into rods, and cuts the rods to the proper length. The same machine adds filters for filter cigarettes, seals the cigarette paper, and drops the cigarettes onto trays. Tobacco inspectors remove any imperfect cigarettes from the trays. The cigarettes then enter the packing machine, which divides cigarettes into lots of twenty and wraps them in laminated foil, the brand-name paper cover, and the cellophane outer cover. Inspectors remove any imperfect packages before they are placed in ten-package cartons. The cigarettes are then packed in boxes for shipment.
Some expensive cigars are handmade, but most cigars are made by machine. Cigars use three kinds of tobacco: filler, binder, and wrapper. A filler tender feeds tobacco into the machine. A binder layer puts the tobacco used for binding into the machine where it binds the filler together and cuts and shapes the cigar. The wrapper layer sees that the tobacco leaves used as outer wrappers are placed around the cigars. Finally, the binding and cellophaning machine operator feeds cigars into the machine that bands and wraps them. Cigar packers then select the right size and color for each box of cigars. The skilled workers who make cigars by hand fill, bind, and wrap each cigar.
Several other kinds of tobacco are manufactured for consumers. Pipe tobacco is blended from leaves. Snuff is prepared from leaves and stems. Other types of tobacco are plug-cut tobacco, long-cut tobacco, and scrap chewing tobacco.
Education and Training Requirements
No special education is required to work on the production lines of tobacco manufacturing plants. Some employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Interested candidates need physical strength to work with machines and good eyesight to inspect products. All production workers are trained on the job.
Getting the Job
Most tobacco and cigarette manufacturing factories are located in the South. Apply directly to the plants. Newspaper want ads and the state employment office may list job openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced workers may learn to operate the more complicated machines for slightly higher wages. To advance in the tobacco industry from a job on the production line, workers must have further education. Jobs in management, technical, scientific, or professional work require at least a college education or further technical school training.
Despite health warnings, rising state taxes on tobacco products, and campaigns against smoking, Americans consume hundreds of billions of cigarettes and cigars each year. Nonetheless, this number is decreasing, and automation has caused a decrease in the total number of jobs for production line workers.
The strict regulations for sanitation, good ventilation, and lighting provide pleasant working conditions in tobacco factories. The presence of tobacco dust may cause physical discomfort for some workers. Much of the work, such as that done by machine operators and others, may be monotonous. Also, workers paid by the number of pieces they produce may be under some pressure to work quickly.
Where to Go for More Information
Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union
10401 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895
Earnings and Benefits
Entry-level workers in the tobacco industry earn about $6.50 per hour, and the annual salary for experienced production workers can range from $23,000 to $40,000. Union workers receive such benefits as paid holidays, paid vacations, and health insurance.