"In Eastern Europe, the sales are increasing," said Brian Furnish during a trade show in Krakow, Poland. Furnish is an eighth-generation tobacco farmer who also represents a five-state tobacco cooperative that is trying to sell millions of pounds of burley tobacco all over the world — in Poland, Indonesia, China, Egypt and Serbia, for example.
For the CNBC Original Cigarette Wars, we followed him to Eastern Europe to witness the transition from Kentucky farmer to international salesman.
"We go to the parts of the world where the population is increasing and where the consumption is increasing," he said.
Just a few years ago, Furnish only exported about 15-percent of his crop. In 2011, it's closer to 85-percent. He thinks the U.S. tobacco market does not have a bright future.
"I think the future of it's very bleak," said Furnish. "I think you're going to have to be an export market."
The numbers support Furnish's stance. More people smoke in China (320 million) than there are people in the United States (308 million). India has about 240 million tobacco users, while Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia add another 150 million.
Furnish compartmentalizes the health side of the debate and the criticisms that the tobacco companies — and the growers — are exporting a health crisis.
"We try to stay out of the health side and the smoking ban issues and things like that," said Furnish. "It's still a legal product in the world, and people are gonna consume it.