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Croydon Advertiser Newspaper Article
The Croydon Advertiser is a popular weekly local newspaper in the area that Chris Gurney lives, Croydon, South London, UK. On Friday 19th September 2003, the Croydon Advertiser carried a 3/4 page feature about Chris and his tobacco seeds. The full article is reproduced below.
'Tobacco King's money for puffing' says Ben Ashford
Three years ago chainsmoker Chris Gurney made headlines for growing his own tobacco on an allotment. Chris' plan was to start up an internet site that could be used to sell seeds all over the world - a huge challenge for a semi-retired upholsterer with no experience in computers.
Forty-a-day man Chris Gurney was fed up forking out for his fags and had a simple message for smokers the world over - save your well earned cash by growing your own tobacco. Chris, of Farleigh Road, Selsdon, had cultivated a lifetime's supply of the evil weed on a council-owned allotment in Pampisford Road, South Croydon. But with more smoke than you could shake a pipe at, the grandfather-of-12 was at a loss over what to do with the bumper crop.
He discovered that while it was illegal to sell the homegrown baccy, there was no restrictions on selling the million or so seeds produced by each plant. For little more than the price of a packet of cigarettes, Chris started selling sachets containing enough seeds to grow 80 kilos of tobacco - a lifetimes supply for the average smoker.
Billed as a bid to take on the tobacco giants, his story was first published in the Croydon Advertiser in October 2000. Within weeks it had made the pages of several national newspapers and appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes.
"I was getting between 70 and 100 letters a day," said the 51-year-old, taking a pull from a homegrown ciggie. "But things got really exciting when the overseas orders starting coming in."
"I had orders from Malaysia, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and all sorts of beautiful-sounding places from around the world that I'd never heard of."
Having converted thousands to the idea of tax-free baccy, Chris' biggest challenge was to transfer the business onto the web for maximum exposure. A master-upholsterer by trade, he knew nothing about computers and could barely type.
"I was 57 and completely lost," he laughed. "The best I could hope for was to find the switch to turn the thing on."
"But little by little I taught myself. I got there in the end with determination and a bit of hard graft."
With an annual turnover pushing into seven figures and customers in 48 different countries, business is now booming for Chris' fledging firm.
Tobacco plants have sprung up in gardens and allotments across the globe thanks to his seeds and the site is the most popular of its type on the web, attracting thousands of hits each month from both satisfied customers and tobacco enthusiasts.
Despite his phenomenal success, Chris says he's not out to promote smoking and if everyone gave up tomorrow, that would be fine with him.
"I would never advocate smoking," added Chris, who has become something of a celebrity in the tobacco world. "Nobody told you about the dangers in my day but the younger generation has no excuses. If I ever saw one of my grandchildren smoking I would be furious.
"But my message has always been that if you are going going to smoke you may as well grow your own and smoke for free rather than handing money over to the big tobacco companies."
Chris is already planning his next business venture, a do-it-yourself guide for writing press releases and plans to devote more time to his other hobby - wine making.
"This was never about the money, added Chris. "It was just a hobby gone mad, I've had a wonderful time."
"I plan on doing it for the rest of my life!"
For further details, write to: The Plantation House, 96 Old Farleigh Road, Selsdon, Surrey CR2 8QE, or visit www.smoke4free.com. Home grown tobacco is not subject to tax, but it is illegal to sell it, or give it away. The same applies to home made alcoholic drinks.
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