When people come to tour I am very clear about smokers going in my greenhouses - I even threaten to tackle them if they think of touching the door jam. God forbid a smoker who hangs out around the farmer's market - strange huh - but I have no problem asking them to smoke elsewhere - only for the sake of the tomatoes.
One study I read about showed Tobacco Mosaic Virus present in 40% of commercial tobacco - and that was in the 80's.
The disease can also be spread by many common plants like marigold, petunia, hollyhock and zinnia. Also nightshades and mints - and a whole slew of others. 5 different kinds of aphids can carry the disease too.
Sometimes the disease can take them out slowly - sometimes quickly - spreading from plant to plant. Often people don't recognize the link or what is happening to their slowly degrading tomato plants. The disease can live in the soil and plant debris so if you think you've had it - clean up and remove debris instead of composting it. Grow tomatoes somewhere new and let that area rest.
Rodale's Encyclopedia of Natural Insect & Disease Control is an excellent resource for the home gardener. I learn so much every time I crack it open.
If you have no choice and the smoker in your life won't keep out of the greenhouse or garden - you may have better luck with a hybrid bred to resist this disease. When you look at hybrid tomatoes - you often see a bunch of letters after the name - like VFT or others. "T", or "TMV" is for Tobacco Mosaic Virus and it is your clue that that tomato is resistant. These would not be good choices for saving seeds of course.
"Leaves may have light and dark green mottling, and at colder temperatures may become spindly. Fruit may ripen unevenly and develop brown spots."
Growing Nicotiana - Tobacco
BUT, after all of my protection and teaching I too, can be totally dumb. I also teach companion planting, integration of growing and also fill my large containers with food, herbs and flowers, always have, always will.
So - right next to the beautiful iron gate by the entrance to my garden sit two half whiskey barrels - perfect for deep planting. That year I started with a tumbling tomato, and lots of herbs and flowers to integrate with it. Oh yeah, I love to grow Nicotiana - (tobacco) for it's magnificently fragrant white flowers. They come in other colors but the white is the most ethereal. A perfect moonlight flower and the scent hits you like a ton of bricks at the gate - kapow!!! I love this plant. I think of it as Nicotiana - not tobacco. I think of it as a beautiful garden flower that the flying creatures love. And so - smart me - I planted them together - Nicotiana for beauty, fragrance and the moon and the tumbling tomatoes coming right over the side of the whiskey barrel for snacking and beauty. Sigh.
Not good. It took me a while too - wondering what was wrong with this poor tomato. Over time, leaf mottling began to occur, the plant was wilted and strange looking - it was trying so hard but it just couldn't do it.
And then I hit myself in the head - "Tobacco!" I yelled, "Cord, you will not believe what I did."
The moral of the story is - do not plant nicotine around your tomatoes - they don't like it. I know Nicotine was sometimes used as a powerful insecticide in the past, but it is not something I would ever mess around with. Besides, there are many better ways to deal with bugs and disease than a hard-core drug like Nicotine.
I grow it still - in it's own pot - away from the tomatoes and enjoy the white trumpets opening in the evening and blasting me and my last cup of tea for the day into heaven.
Here's a couple of hybrids - yes, me, heirloom grower, I had to look them up - for tobacco smokers. I don't have any experience with these varieties but hope they will work for you if you have been having trouble with tomatoes and tobacco. This is not a sure thing - but it could help. Please look them up yourself to see if they are appropriate for your climate and season length. These are all chosen quickly from a catalog - there are many more to choose from - this is just to get you started.
Bush Early Girl VFFNT Hybrid
Jetsetter VFFNTA Hybrid
Ball's Beefsteak VFFT Hybrid
Big Beef VFFNTA Hybrid
Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid
Champion II VFNT Hybrid
Cobra VFT Hybrid
Super Marzano VFNT Hybrid
Sweet Treats FFT Hybrid
Sweet Million FNT Hybrid
Sunsugar FT Hybrid