Could tobacco cure coronavirus? Don’t laugh

Reynolds American, the North Carolina cigarette giant behind the Camel, Newport and Pall Mall brands, is infecting fast-growing tobacco plants with a genetically modified coronavirus to see if they can produce antibodies for a possible vaccine.

It’s a decades-old idea Reynolds tried with limited success during the Ebola crisis in 2015 and could offset declining cigarette sales, new tobacco age restrictions and a possible menthol ban. Public health experts say the experiment, if successful, could be scaled up quickly to respond to an international outbreak.

The Pentagon’s medical research arm credited the use of tobacco plants in 2012 for the quick development of 10 million doses of flu vaccine.