Prilep is an ancient city on the Pelagonia plain, relocated on a new site by the Turkish Empire in the 15th century, which has a current population of 66,000. Tobacco growing has always been important in the region, and it is still possible to observe tobacco leaves being dried in the streets. The first warehouse for purchasing and processing locally-grown crops was opened by the Regie Ottoman de Tabak in 1873. Most of the leading international tobacco companies source substantial quantities of their tobacco from this part of Macedonia after initial processing has been carried out locally. Cigarette manufacture was introduced in the early 1950s. The principal company involved in the trade is the Totunski kombinat Prelep, which was a nationalised concern within the former republic of Yugoslavia, and was partially privatised in 1993.
An institute for research in tobacco was established in 1924 and moved to a new building in 1939. Since 1979 it has been a detached part of the University of St Kliment Ohridski at Bitola, and is responsible for the management of the museum, which is located in a building originally intended for fermenting tobacco. It includes displays illustrating the growing and processing of tobacco as well as the manufacture of cigarettes, snuff and cigars, and has large collections of tobacco pipes, chibouks, hookahs, snuff boxes, ash trays, lighters and every kind of accessory associated with smoking.