Yep, they are pretty to look at. I have them planted at the distillery, people always say, what is that? They can be dangerous, but lots of things can be. One note is, you have to be careful working on them, you can get quite a buzz from touching them too much.
There are a lot of ornamental varieties too. Sold as Nicotinana (the genus name) or something like that. They do well in pots or in in mixed beds. Always wanted to grow some myself, but never had the right place for it.
Definitely dangerous. People get crazy sick from working in the fields. Tobacco poisoning is a bitch.
I never bothered with this for two reasons, first, you can't be an organic gardener and grow tobacco. If you get tobacco beetles, they are a tough thing to get rid of. And second (and most importantly for me), there is a reason that the best tobacco is grown in regions like Cuba, Nicaragua, etc. That is where the climate, soil and so on is the best to grow the leaf. Yes VA, the Carolinas, etc grow tobacco, but that is the stuff that gets blended for cigarettes and cheap chopped leaf cigars. So, I just leave the growing to those that are in the right area for it.
i have grown some tobacco the last few years (habana 2000 and criollo strains) and roll them up too. its kind of fun, and this year i had 10 plants. the leaves are sitting in a large cooler resting now, but i rolled some up already.
had one plant that reached 9 foot tall.
Back in the late 1980's I lived in Hadley, MA, a farm town bordering on Amherst, in a house about 500 feet from the Connecticut River. The Connecticut River Valley tobacco growing region extends up and down the river valley, and Hadley's right in the middle of it.
Our landlord was (is) a farmer, growing tobacco, potatoes, silage corn, a little asparagus, and some strawberries; by far his most profitable crop was when he had a good tobacco season. The curing barns (always referred to as drying barns (or sheds)) were all around the house in the fields, and even 25 years on, I can sharply remember the late-summer aroma of drying tobacco.
Cigar Aficionado ran a great article back in 1992 about the cultivation process for Connecticut shade-grown: