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Unlit filtered f6 brand cigarettes from Germany

A cigarette (, ; from the French word cigarette , meaning "small cigar")[1] is a small cylinder of finely cut tobacco leaves rolled in thin paper for smoking. The cigarette is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder; its smoke is inhaled from the other end, which is held in or to the mouth; in some cases a cigarette holder may be used as well. Most modern manufactured cigarettes are filtered and include reconstituted tobacco and other additives.[2]

The term cigarette, as commonly used, refers to a tobacco cigarette but can apply to similar devices containing other herbs, such as cloves or cannabis. A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its smaller size, use of processed leaf, and paper wrapping, which is normally white, though other colors are occasionally available. Cigars are typically composed entirely of whole-leaf tobacco.

Rates of cigarette smoking vary widely, and have changed considerably over the course of history — since cigarettes were first widely used in the mid-20th century. While rates of smoking have over time leveled off or declined in the developed world, they continue to rise in developing nations.[3][4]

Cigarettes carry serious health risks, which are more prevalent than in other tobacco products. Nicotine, the primary psychoactive chemical in tobacco and therefore cigarettes, is addictive.[5] About half of cigarette smokers die of tobacco-related disease[6] and lose on average 14 years of life.[5] Cigarette use by pregnant women has also been shown to cause birth defects, including low birth weight, fetal abnormalities, and premature birth.[7] Second-hand smoke from cigarettes has been shown to be injurious to bystanders,[8][9][10][11] which has led to legislation that has prohibited smoking in many workplaces and public areas. Cigarettes are a frequent source of fires leading to loss of lives in private homes, which has prompted the European Union and the United States to ban cigarettes that are not fire standard compliant by 2011.[12][13]


  • History 1
  • Legislation 2
    • Smoking restrictions 2.1
    • Smoking age 2.2
    • Taxation 2.3
    • Fire safe cigarette 2.4
    • Cigarette advertising 2.5
    • Warning messages in packages 2.6
  • Construction 3
    • Paper 3.1
    • Tobacco blend 3.2
    • Additives 3.3
    • Cigarette tube 3.4
    • Cigarette butt 3.5
    • Cigarette filter 3.6
  • Environmental Impact 4
    • Aquatic Life Health Concerns 4.1
    • Other Health Concerns 4.2
    • Degradation 4.3
    • Biodegradation 4.4
    • Factors in biodegradation 4.5
    • Photodegradation 4.6
    • Solution and remediation projects 4.7
  • Prices 5
  • Sales 6
  • Consumption 7
  • Lights 8
  • Notable cigarette brands 9
  • Electronic cigarette 10
  • Health effects 11
    • Smokers 11.1
    • Second-hand smoke 11.2
  • Smoking cessation 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16


A reproduction of a carving from the temple at Palenque, Mexico, depicting a Mayan priest smoking from a smoking tube.

The earliest forms of cigarettes were similar to their predecessor, the cigar. Cigarettes appear to have had antecedents in Mexico and Central America around the 9th century in the form of reeds and smoking tubes. The Maya, and later the Aztecs, smoked tobacco and various psychoactive drugs in religious rituals and frequently depicted priests and deities smoking on pottery and temple engravings. The cigarette and the cigar were the most common methods of smoking in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America until recent times.[14]

The North American, Central American and South American cigarette used various plant wrappers; when it was brought back to Spain, maize wrappers were introduced, and by the 17th century, fine paper. The resulting product was called papelate and is documented in Goya's paintings La Cometa, La Merienda en el Manzanares, and El juego de la pelota a pala (18th century).[15]

By 1830, the cigarette had crossed into France, where it received the name cigarette; and in 1845, the French state tobacco monopoly began manufacturing them.[15]

Production climbed markedly when a cigarette-making machine was developed in the 1880s by James Albert Bonsack which vastly increased the productivity of cigarette companies, who went from making approximately 40,000 hand-rolled cigarettes daily to around 4 million.[16]

In the English-speaking world, the use of tobacco in cigarette form became increasingly widespread during and after the Crimean War, when British soldiers began emulating their Ottoman Turkish comrades and Russian enemies, who had begun rolling and smoking tobacco in strips of old newspaper for lack of proper cigar-rolling leaf.[15] This was helped by the development of tobaccos suitable for cigarette use, and by the development of the Egyptian cigarette export industry.

Francisco Goya's La Cometa, depicting a (foreground left) man smoking an early quasi-cigarette.

Cigarettes may have been initially used in a manner similar to pipes, cigars and cigarillos and not inhaled; for evidence, see the Lucky Strike ad campaign asking consumers "Do You Inhale?" from the 30s. As cigarette tobacco became milder and more acidic inhaling may have become perceived as more agreeable. On the other hand, Moltke noticed in the 1830s (cf. Unter dem Halbmond) that Ottomans (and he himself) inhaled the Turkish tobacco and Latakia from their pipes[17] (which are both initially sun-cured, acidic leaf varieties).

As early as 1888, cigarettes were described colloquially as "coffin nails."[18]

The widespread smoking of cigarettes in the Western world is largely a 20th-century phenomenon – at the start of the 20th century the per capita annual consumption in the USA was 54 cigarettes (with less than 0.5% of the population smoking more than 100 cigarettes per year), and consumption there peaked at 4,259 per capita in 1965. At that time about 50% of men and 33% of women smoked (defined as smoking more than 100 cigarettes per year).[19] By 2000, consumption had fallen to 2,092 per capita, corresponding to about 30% of men and 22% of women smoking more than 100 cigarettes per year, and by 2006 per capita consumption had declined to 1,691;[20] implying that about 21% of the population smoked 100 cigarettes or more per year.

German doctors were the first to identify the link between smoking and lung cancer which led to the first anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany.[21][22] During World War I and World War II, cigarettes were rationed to soldiers. During the Vietnam War, cigarettes were included with C-ration meals. In 1975 the U.S. government stopped putting cigarettes in military rations. During the second half of the 20th century, the adverse health effects of tobacco smoking started to become widely known and text-only health warnings became commonplace on cigarette packets. Warnings became prevalent but unpopular, mainly due to the political influences held by tobacco growers. The United States has not implemented graphical cigarette warning labels, which are considered a more effective method to communicate to the public the dangers of cigarette smoking.[23] Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Hungary, the United Kingdom, France, Romania, Singapore, Egypt, and Turkey however, have both textual warnings and graphic visual images displaying, among other things, the damaging effects tobacco use has on the human body.

The cigarette has evolved much since its conception; for example, the thin bands that travel transverse to the "axis of smoking" (thus forming circles along the length of the cigarette) are alternate sections of thin and thick paper to facilitate effective burning when being drawn, and retard burning when at rest. Synthetic particulate filters may remove some of the tar before it reaches the smoker.

The 'holy grail' for cigarette companies has been the quest for a cancer-free cigarette. On record, the closest historical attempt was produced by a scientist James Mold. Under the name project TAME, he produced the XA cigarette. However, in 1978, his project was terminated.[24][25][26]

Since 1950, the average nicotine and tar content of cigarettes has steadily fallen. The fall in nicotine content has led to smokers inhaling larger volumes per puff.[27]


Smoking restrictions

Many governments impose restrictions on smoking tobacco, especially in public areas. The primary justification has been the negative health effects of second-hand smoke.[28] Laws vary by country and locality. Bhutan is currently the only country in the world to completely outlaw the cultivation, harvesting, production and sale of tobacco and tobacco products under the 'Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010'. However, small allowances for personal possession are permitted as long as the possessor can prove that they have paid import duties.[29] The Pitcairn Islands had previously banned the sale of cigarettes, however it now permits sales from a government run store. The pacific island of Niue hopes to become the next country to prohibit the sale of tobacco.[30] Iceland is also proposing banning tobacco sales from shops, making it prescription only and therefore dispensable only in pharmacies on doctor's orders.[31] New Zealand hopes to achieve being tobacco free by 2025 and Finland by 2040. Singapore and the Australian state of Tasmania have proposed a 'tobacco free millennium generation initiative' by banning the sale of all tobacco products to anyone born in and after the year 2000. See: Smoking age, Smoking bans in private vehicles, Retail display ban, Cigarette machine.

In March 2012, Brazil became the world's first country to ban all flavored tobacco including menthols. It also banned the majority of the estimated 600 additives used, permitting only 8. This regulation applies to domestic and internationally imported cigarettes. Tobacco manufacturers have 18 months to remove the non-compliant cigarettes, 24 months to remove the other forms of non-compliant tobacco.[32][33]

Smoking age

Beginning on April 1, 1998, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under the state purchase age has been prohibited by law in all 50 states of the United States. The purchasing age in the United States is 18 for 46 of the 50 states — but 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, Utah, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Onondaga counties in New York.[34][35] The intended effect of this is to prevent older high school students from purchasing cigarettes for their younger peers. Legislation was pending as of 2004 in some other states. In Massachusetts,[36] parents and guardians are allowed to give cigarettes to minors, but sales to minors are prohibited.

Similar laws exist in many other countries. In Canada, most of the provinces require smokers to be 19 years of age to purchase cigarettes (except for Quebec and the prairie provinces, where the age is 18). However, the minimum age only concerns the purchase of tobacco, not use. Alberta, however, does have a law which prohibits the possession or use of tobacco products by all persons under 18, punishable by a $100 fine. Australia, New Zealand, Poland and Pakistan have a nationwide ban on the selling of all tobacco products to people under the age of 18.

Tabak-Trafik in Vienna. Since 1 January 2007, all cigarette machines in Austria must attempt to verify a customer's age by requiring the insertion of a debit card or mobile phone verification.

Since 1 October 2007, it has been illegal for retailers to sell tobacco in all forms to people under the age of 18 in three of the UK's four constituent countries (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland) (rising from 16). It is also illegal to sell lighters, rolling papers and all other tobacco-associated items to people under 18. It is not illegal for people under 18 to buy or smoke tobacco, just as it was not previously for people under 16; it is only illegal for the said retailer to sell the item. The age increase from 16 to 18 came into force in Northern Ireland on 1 September 2008. In the Republic of Ireland, bans on the sale of the smaller ten-packs and confectionery that resembles tobacco products (candy cigarettes) came into force on May 31, 2007 in a bid to cut underaged smoking.

Most countries in the world have a legal vending age of 18. In Macedonia, Italy, Malta, Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium the age for legal vending is 16. Since January 1, 2007, all cigarette machines in public places in Germany must attempt to verify a customer's age by requiring the insertion of a debit card. Turkey, which has one of the highest percentage of smokers in its population,[37] has a legal age of 18. Japan is one of the highest tobacco-consuming nations, and requires purchasers to be 20 years of age (suffrage in Japan is 20 years old).[38] Since July 2008, Japan has enforced this age limit at cigarette vending machines through use of the taspo smart card. In other countries, such as Egypt, it is legal to use and purchase tobacco products regardless of age. Germany raised the purchase age from 16 to 18 on the 1 September 2007.

Some police departments in the United States occasionally send an underaged teenager into a store where cigarettes are sold, and have the teen attempt to purchase cigarettes, with their own or no ID. If the vendor then completes the sale, the store is issued a fine.[39] Similar enforcement practices are regularly performed by Trading Standards Officers in the UK, Israel and the Gardaí Siochana, the police force of the Republic of Ireland.[40]


Cigarettes are a significant source of tax revenue in many localities. This fact has historically been an impediment for health groups seeking to discourage cigarette smoking, since governments seek to maximize tax revenues. Furthermore, some countries have made cigarettes a state monopoly, which has the same effect on the attitude of government officials outside the health field.[41] In the United States, cigarettes are taxed substantially, but the states are a primary determinant of the total tax rate. Generally, states that rely on tobacco as a significant farm product tend to tax cigarettes at a low rate.[42] It has been shown that higher prices for cigarettes discourage smoking. Every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduced youth smoking by about seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent.[43] Thus increased cigarette taxes are proposed as a means to reduce smoking. Coupled with the federal cigarette tax of $1.01 per pack, total cigarette-specific taxes range from $1.18 per pack in Missouri to $8.00 per pack in Silver Bay. States also charge sizable settlement payments to tobacco companies, and the federal government levies user fees to fund FDA regulatory measures over tobacco. While these charges are not cigarette-specific, tobacco companies are ultimately forced to pass on those costs to their consumers. Lastly, most jurisdictions apply sales tax to the full retail price of cigarettes.

Fire safe cigarette

According to Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, the burning agents in cigarette paper are responsible for fires and reducing them would be a simple and effective means of dramatically reducing the ignition propensity of cigarettes.[44] Since the 1980s, prominent cigarette manufacturers such as Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds developed fire-safe cigarettes but did not market them.

The burn rate of cigarette paper is regulated through the application of different forms of micro crystalline cellulose to the paper.[45] Cigarette paper has been specially engineered by creating bands of different porosity to create "fire-safe" cigarettes. These cigarettes have a reduced idle burning speed which allows them to self-extinguish.[46] This fire-safe paper is manufactured by mechanically altering the setting of the paper slurry.[47]

New York was the first U.S. state to mandate that all cigarettes manufactured or sold within the state comply with a fire safe standard. Canada has passed a similar nation-wide mandate based on the same standard. All U.S. states are gradually passing fire-safe mandates.[48]

European Union wishes to ban in 2011 cigarettes that are not fire-safe. According to a study made by European Union in 16 European countries, 11,000 fires were due to people carelessly handling cigarettes between 2005 and 2007. This caused 520 deaths and 1600 people injured.[49]

Cigarette advertising

In many parts of the world tobacco advertising and sponsorship has been outlawed. The ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the EU in 2005 has prompted Formula One Management to look for races in areas that allow the tobacco sponsored teams to display their livery. In the United States, advertising restrictions took effect on June 22, 2010.

In some jurisdictions, such as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the retail store display of cigarettes is completely prohibited if persons under the legal age of consumption have access to the premises.[50] In Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the ACT, and Quebec, Canada, the display of tobacco is prohibited for everyone, regardless of age, as of 2010. This retail display ban includes non-cigarette products such as cigars and blunt wraps.[51][52]

Warning messages in packages

Dutch cigarette package with the warning "Roken is dodelijk" (smoking is lethal).

As a result of tight advertising and marketing prohibitions, tobacco companies look at the pack differently: they view it as a strong component in displaying brand imagery and a creating significant in-store presence at the point of purchase. Market testing shows the influence of this dimension in shifting the consumer’s choice when the same product displays in an alternative package. Studies also show how companies have manipulated a variety of elements in packs designs to communicate the impression of lower in tar or milder cigarettes whereas the components were the same.[53]

Some countries require cigarette packs to contain warnings about health hazards. The United States was the first,[54] later followed by other countries including Canada, most of Europe, Australia,[55] India, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1985, Iceland became the first country to enforce graphic warnings on cigarette packaging.[56][57] At the end of December 2010 new regulations from Ottawa increased the size of tobacco warnings to cover three quarters of the cigarette package in Canada.[58] As of November 2010, 39 countries have adopted similar legislation.[54]

On February 2011, the Canadian government passed regulations requiring cigarette packs to contain twelve new images to cover 75 percent of the outside panel and eight new health messages on the inside panel with full color.[59]

April 2011: The world's toughest laws on packages came from Australia. New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom have considered similar policies. The Australian regulations require all packs to use a bland olive green, with 75 percent coverage on the front of the pack and all of the back consisting of graphic health warnings. The only things that differentiate one brand from another are the product name in a standard color, standard position and standard font size and style.[60] In response to these regulations Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco Inc., British American Tobacco Plc. and Imperial Tobacco attempted to sue the Australian government. On August 15, 2012 the High Court of Australia dismissed the suit and made Australia the first country to introduce brand-free plain cigarette packaging with health warnings covering 90 percent and 70 percent of back and front packaging respectively. This took effect on December 1, 2012.[61]


Diagram of a cigarette.
1. Filter made of 95% cellulose acetate.
2. Tipping paper to cover the filter.
3. Rolling paper to cover the tobacco.
4. Tobacco blend.

Modern commercially manufactured cigarettes are seemingly simple objects consisting mainly of a tobacco blend, paper, PVA glue to bond the outer layer of paper together, and often also a cellulose acetate–based filter.[62] While the assembly of cigarettes is straightforward, much focus is given to the creation of each of the components, in particular the tobacco blend. A key ingredient that makes cigarettes more addictive is the inclusion of reconstituted tobacco, which has additives to make nicotine more volatile as the cigarette burns.[2]


The paper for holding the tobacco blend may vary in porosity to allow ventilation of the burning ember or contain materials that control the burning rate of the cigarette and stability of the produced ash. The papers used in tipping the cigarette (forming the mouthpiece) and surrounding the filter stabilize the mouthpiece from saliva and moderate the burning of the cigarette as well as the delivery of smoke with the presence of one or two rows of small laser-drilled air holes.[63]

Tobacco blend

Leones Africanos brand cigarettes from the mid 20th century, part of the permanent collection of the Museo del Objeto del Objeto.

The process of blending gives the end product a consistent taste from batches of tobacco grown in different areas of a country that may change in flavor profile from year to year due to different environmental conditions.[64]

Modern cigarettes produced after the 1950s, although composed mainly of shredded tobacco leaf, use a significant quantity of tobacco processing by-products in the blend. Each cigarette's tobacco blend is made mainly from the leaves of flue-cured brightleaf, burley tobacco, and oriental tobacco. These leaves are selected, processed, and aged prior to blending and filling. The processing of brightleaf and burley tobaccos for tobacco leaf "strips" produces several by-products such as leaf stems, tobacco dust, and tobacco leaf pieces ("small laminate").[64] To improve the economics of producing cigarettes, these by-products are processed separately into forms where they can then be possibly added back into the cigarette blend without an apparent or marked change in the cigarette's quality. The most common tobacco by-products include:

  • Blended leaf (BL) sheet: a thin, dry sheet cast from a paste made with tobacco dust collected from tobacco stemming, finely milled burley-leaf stem, and pectin.[65]
  • Reconstituted leaf (RL) sheet: a paper-like material made from recycled tobacco fines, tobacco stems and "class tobacco", which consists of tobacco particles less than 30 mesh in size (~0.599 mm) that are collected at any stage of tobacco processing.[66] RL is made by extracting the soluble chemicals in the tobacco by-products, processing the leftover tobacco fibers from the extraction into a paper, and then reapplying the extracted materials in concentrated form onto the paper in a fashion similar to what is done in paper sizing. At this stage ammonium additives are applied to make reconstituted tobacco an effective nicotine delivery system.[2]
  • Expanded (ES) or improved stems (IS): ES are rolled, flattened, and shredded leaf stems that are expanded by being soaked in water and rapidly heated. Improved stems follow the same process but are simply steamed after shredding. Both products are then dried. These two products look similar in appearance but are different in taste.[64]

In recent years, the manufacturers' pursuit of maximum profits has led to the practice of using not just the leaves, but also recycled tobacco offal[2] and the plant stem.[67] The stem is first crushed and cut to resemble the leaf before being merged or blended into the cut leaf.[68] According to data from the World Health Organization,[69] the amount of tobacco per 1000 cigarettes fell from 2.28 pounds in 1960 to 0.91 pounds in 1999, largely as a result of reconstituting tobacco, fluffing and additives.

A recipe-specified combination of brightleaf, burley-leaf and oriental-leaf tobacco will be mixed with various additives to improve its flavours.


Various additives are combined into the shredded tobacco product mixtures, with humectants such as propylene glycol or glycerol, as well as flavouring products and enhancers such as cocoa solids, licorice, tobacco extracts, and various sugars, which are known collectively as "casings". The leaf tobacco will then be shredded, along with a specified amount of small laminate, expanded tobacco, BL, RL, ES and IS. A perfume-like flavour/fragrance, called the "topping" or "toppings", which is most often formulated by flavor companies, will then be blended into the tobacco mixture to improve the consistency in flavour and taste of the cigarettes associated with a certain brand name.[64] Additionally, they replace lost flavours due to the repeated wetting and drying used in processing the tobacco. Finally the tobacco mixture will be filled into cigarettes tubes and packaged.

A list of 599 organoleptic purposes and many boost the addictive properties of cigarettes, especially when burned.

One of the chemicals on the list, ammonia, helps convert bound nicotine molecules in tobacco smoke into free nicotine molecules. This process is known as freebasing which enhances the effect of the nicotine on the smoker.

Cigarette tube

Cigarette tubes are pre-rolled cigarette paper usually with an acetate or paper filter at the end. They have an appearance similar to a finished cigarette but are without any tobacco or smoking material inside. The length varies from what is known as King Size (84mm) to 100's (100mm).[70]

Filling a cigarette tube is usually done with a cigarette injector (also known as a shooter). Cone shaped cigarette tubes are known as cones and can be filled using a packing stick or straw because of their cone shape. Cone smoking is popular because as the cigarette burns it tends to get stronger and stronger. A cone allows more tobacco to be burned at the beginning than the end, allowing for an even flavor[71]

The United States Tobacco Taxation Bureau defines a cigarette tube as "Cigarette paper made into a hollow cylinder for use in making cigarettes."[72]

Cigarette butt

A discarded cigarette butt, lying on dirty snow

The common name for the remains of a cigarette after smoking is a cigarette butt. The butt typically comprise of about 30 percent of the cigarette's original length. It consists of a tissue tube which holds a filter and some remains of tobacco mixed with ash. They are the most numerically frequent litter in the world.[73] Cigarette butts accumulate outside of buildings, on parking lots, and streets where they can be transported through storm drains to streams, rivers, and beaches.[74] It is also called a fag-end or dog-end.[75]

In a recent trial the city of Vancouver, in British Columbia Canada, partnered with TerraCycle to create a system for recycling of cigarette butts. 1¢ per collected butt was offered to determine the effectiveness of a deposit system similar to that of beverage containers.[76][77]

Cigarette filter

Simple molecular representation of Cellulose acetate with one of the acetate groups on the cellulose backbone shown by the red circle.

Environmental Impact

Cigarette filters are made up of thousand polymer chains of cellulose acetate, which has the chemical structure shown to the right. Once discarded into the environment the filters become a large waste problem. Cigarette filters are the most common form of litter in the world, as approximately 5.6 trillon cigarettes are smoked every year worldwide.[78] Of those it is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette filters become litter every year.[79] To develop an idea of the waste weight amount produced a year the table below was created.
Estimated waste produced from filters
Number of filters weight
1 pack (20) 0.12 oz
sold daily (15 billion) 5,625,000 lbs
sold yearly (5.6 trillion) 2,100,000,000 lbs
estimated trash (4.5 trillion) 1,687,500,000 lbs

Once discarded cigarette filters usually end up into water system through movement along drainage ditches, rivers, and other water ways. Once in the water system the cigarette filters final designation is the ocean.

Aquatic Life Health Concerns

In the 2006 International Coastal Cleanup, cigarettes and cigarette butts constituted 24.7 percent of the total collected pieces of garbage, over twice as many as any other category, which is not surprising seeing the numbers in the table above of waste produced each year.[80] Cigarette filters contain the chemicals filtered from cigarettes and can leach into waterways and water supplies.[81] The toxicity of used cigarette filters depends on the brand design because cigarette companies incorporate varying degrees of chemicals in their tobacco blends. After a cigarette is smoked, the filter is capable of retaining some of the chemicals, and some of the chemicals are considered carcinogenic.[73] When studying the toxicity of cigarette filters in the environment, the individually concentration of the varies chemical that can be found on cigarette filter is not study due to its complexity. Researchers focus on instead the whole cigarette filter and its LC50 value. LC50 is defined as the lethal concentration that kills 50% of a sample population. This allows for a simpler study of the toxicity of cigarettes filters. One recent study has looked at the toxicity of smoked cigarette filters (smoked filter + tobacco), smoked cigarette filters (no tobacco), and unsmoked cigarette filters (no tobacco). The results of the study showed that for the LC50 of both Marine Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis) and freshwater Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) smoked cigarette filters + tobacco are more toxic then smoked cigarette filters, but both are severely more toxic then unsmoked cigarette filters.[82]

LC50 of cigarette filters to marine life (cigarette per liter)
Cigarette type Marine Topsmelt Fathead Minnow
Smoked cigarette filter (smoked filter + tobacco) 1.0 1.0
Smoked cigarette filters (no tobacco) 1.8 4.3
Unsmoked cigarette filters (no tobacco) 5.1 13.5

Other Health Concerns

Toxic chemicals are not the only human health concern to take into considerations, the others are cellulose acetate and carbon particles that are breathed in while smoking. These particles are suspected of causing lung damage.[83] The next health concern is that to plants. New research has indicated that under certain growing condition, plants on average grow higher and have longer roots than those exposed to cigarette filters in the soil. Other implementation of this research is that there is a connection between cigarette filters introduced to soil and the depletion of some soil nutrients over a period time. Another health concern to the environment is not only the toxic carcinogens that are harmful to the wildlife, but the filters themselves pose an ingestion risk to wildlife that may presume filter litter as food.[84] The last major health concern to make note of for mariene life is the toxicity that toxic deep Marine Topsmelt, and Fathead Minnow pose to their predators. This could lead to toxin build up (bioaccumulation) in the food chain and have long reaching negative effects. Smoldering cigarette filters have also been blamed for triggering fires from residential areas[85] to major wildfires and bushfires which has caused major property damage and also death[86][87][88] as well as disruption to services by triggering alarms and warning systems.[89]


Once in the environment cellulose acetate can go through Biodegradation and Photodegradation.[90][91][92] There are a lot of factors that go into determining the rate of both degradation process. This variance in rate and resistance to biodegradation in many conditions is a factor in littering[93] and environmental damage.[94]


Chemical hydrolysis of cellulose acetate

The first step in the biodegradation of cellulose acetate is the deactylation of the acetate from the polymer chain (which is the opposite of Acetylation). An acetate is a negative ion with the chemical formula of C2H3O2−. Deacetylation can be performed by either chemical hydrolysis or Acetylesterase. Chemical hydrolysis is the cleavage of a chemical bond by addition of water. This chemical reaction is shown to the right. In the reaction water (H2O) reacts with the acetic ester functional group that is attached the cellulose polymer chain and form's two new products which are an alcohol and acetate. The alcohol is simply the cellulose polymer chain with the acetate replace with alcohol group. The second reaction Acetylesterase is exactly the same as chemical hydrolysis with the exception of the use of an acetylesterase enzyme. The enzyme is found in most plants, it is a catalyzes with the chemical reaction shown below.[95]

acetic ester + H2O  \rightleftharpoons alcohol + acetate
In the case of the enzymatic reaction the two substrates (aka reactants) are again acetic ester and water (H2O), the two products of the reaction are alcohol and acetate. This reaction is exactly the same as the chemical hydrolysis, with the only difference being the reaction is performed using the catalytic enzyme acetlesterase. Both of these products are perfectly fine in the environment. Once the acetate group is removed from the cellulose chain, the polymer can be readily degraded by Cellulase, which is another enzyme found in Fungi, Bacteria, and Protozoans. Cellulases break down the cellulose molecule into monosaccharides ("simple sugars") such as beta-glucose, or shorter polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. The conversion from Cellulose to Glucose is shown to the right.
The chemical structure change of Cellulose into Glucose
These simple sugars are not harmful to the environment and are in fact are a useful product for many plants and animals. The break down of cellulose is of interest in the field of biofuel. ( Due to the condition that effect the process above there is large variation in the degradation time of cellulose acetate.

Factors in biodegradation

The duration of the biodegradation process is cited as taking as little as one month to three years[90] to as long as 15 years or more depending on the environmental conditions. The major factor that affects the biodegradation duration is the availability of acetylesterase and cellulase enzymes. Without these enzymes biodegradation will only occur through chemical hydrolysis and stop there. Temperature is another major factor, if it is too cold for the organisms that contain the enzymes to grow then biodegradation will be severely hindered. Another condition that effects the degradation is the availability of oxygen in the environment. In 1993 a study performed by Buchanan, Gardner, and Komarek showed that cellulose acetate is degraded within 2–3 weeks under Aerobic asassy systems of InVitro enrichment cultivation technique and an activated sludge waste water treatment system.[96] A study performed by Rivard et al. in 1992 showed that cellulose acetate is degraded within 14 weeks under Anaerobic conditions of incubation with special cultures of fungi.[97] The image to the right shows the set up for these experiments. It is important to note that in both studies ideal conditions where used for the degradation (i.e. right temperature, and available organism to provide the enzymes). Thus it can be concluded that filters will last longer in places with low oxygen concentration (ex. Swamps and Bogs). Overall in conclusion the biodegraditon process of cellulose acetate is not an instantaneous process, contrary to want people think when they hear biodegradable.


The other process of degradation is Photodegradation, which is when a molecules bond is broken by the absorption of photon radiation (i.e. light). Due to Cellulose acetate carbonyl groups, the molecule natural absorbs light at 260 nm.[98] But due to cellulose acetate being made from raw materials its final product contains some impurities which can absorb light. These impurities are known to absorb light in the far UV light region (< 280 nm).[99] The atmosphere filters radiation from the sun and allows radiation of > 300 nm only to reach the surface. Thus the primary photodegradation of cellulose acetate is considered insignificant to the total degradation process, since cellulose acetate and its impurities absorb light at shorter wavelengths. Recent research is now focused on looking at the secondary mechanisms of photodegradation of cellulose acetate to help make up for some of the limitations of biodegradation. The secondary mechanisms would be the addition of a compound to the filters that would be able to absorb natural light and use it to start the degradation process. The main two areas of research are in photocatalytic oxidation and photosensitized degradation Photocatalytic oxidation utilizes a species that absorb radiation and create hydroxyl radicals that react with the filters and start the breakdown. Photosensitized degradation on the other hand utilizes a species that absorbs radiation and transfers the energy to the cellulose acetate to start the degradation process. Both process utilize other species that absorbed light > 300 nm to start the degradation of cellulose acetate.

Solution and remediation projects

A cigarette disposal canister, encouraging the public to dispose of their cigarettes properly.
There are several options that help reduce the environmental impact that cigarette butts cause. Proper disposal into receptacles well lead to decreased numbers found in the environment, and there effect on the environment. Another method is making fines and penalties for littering filters, many governments have sanctioned stiff penalties for littering of cigarette filters; for example the Washington state imposes a penalty of $1,025 for littering cigarette filters.[100] Another option is developing better biodegradable filters, much of this work lies heavily on the research in the secoundary mechanism for photodegradtion as stated above. But new research group has developed an acid tablet that goes inside the filters and once wet enough will release acid that speeds up the degradation to around two weeks.[101] The research is still only in test phase and the hope is soon it will go into production. The next option is using cigarette packs with a compartment to discard cigarette butts in, implementing monetary deposits on filters, increasing the availability of butt receptacles, and expanding public education. It may even be possible to ban the sale of filtered cigarettes altogether on the basis of their adverse environmental impact.[102] Recent research has been put into finding ways to utilizes the filter waste, to develop a desired product. One research group in South Korea have developed a simple one-step process that converts the cellulose acetate in discarded cigarette filters into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicle and wind turbines to store energy. These materials have demonstrated superior performance as compared to commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nano tubes. The product is showing high promise as a green alternative for the waste problem.[103]


Country/Territory USD/20 pack €/20 pack Local currency/20 pack Date of price Sources
Ireland 11.60 9.10 €9.10 2012-07-16 [1]
United Kingdom 12 9.40 £7.50 2012-03-21 [2]
New Zealand 13.13 10.10 NZ$16 2013-01-01 [3]
Poland 4.75 3.70 15.50 PLN 2013-05-18 [4]
U.S. (New York) 12.50 9.80 $12.50 2012-06-26 [5]
U.S. (Virginia) 4.60 3.50 $4.56 2013-04-11 [6]
Australia 17.80 14.10 A$20 (A$25/ 25 pack) 2014-08-31 [7]
Norway 15.50 12.20 NOK90 2012-05-12 [8]
Singapore 10 8 $12.00 2014-09-25 [9]
Malaysia 3.97 3.10 13.00 RM 2014-09-25 [10]
South Africa 3.11 2.33 R31.00 2013-06-14 [11]
Thailand 2.15 1.55 Baht 65.00 2014-09-02
Canada (Manitoba) 10.75 7.92 C$11.20 ($14/25 pack)
Indonesia 1.59 1.24 Rp 19,075 2014-09-25 [12]
Romania 4.4 3.4 15 RON 2014-09-09 [13]


A Woolworths supermarket cigarette counter in New South Wales, Australia. In January 2011, Australia prohibited the display of cigarettes in retail outlets countrywide.[104]


As of 2002, approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes are produced globally each year and are smoked by over 1.1 billion people or greater than one-seventh of the world population. While smoking rates have levelled off or declined in developed nations, they continue to rise in developing parts of the world. Smoking rates in the United States have dropped by half from 1965 to 2006 falling from 42% to 20.8% of adults.[3] In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year.[4] Smoking rates in Australia have dropped 4.9 percent in the year that ended in March 2014. Consumption of cigarettes and tobacco dropped 7.6 percent in the first quarter in Australia, and .1 percentage point of the nation’s gross domestic product was clipped from the cut in household consumption of cigarettes. Australia is cutting their overall smoking consumption faster than most of the developed world. This is in part due to landmark legislation passed banning logos on cigarette cartons, and instead replacing labels with graphic images of sick or dying cigarette smokers and dire health warnings in front of the images. This legislation, passed in 2011, is called Australia’s Plain Packaging Act, and was fought in the country’s High Court by manufacturers of tobacco products. The legislation has significantly reduced consumption in Australia, and could serve as precedent for many other governments currently expanding restrictive legislation on cigarette and tobacco use. An independent review made by one of Britain’s most prominent doctors, Cyril Chantler, may be one of the first steps for Britain to follow Australia in cutting its overall household consumption. In his report, he notes that “standardized packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking.” Ireland’s health minister, James Reilly, has said the government has passed a draft bill in 2014 on plain packaging. In New Zealand, a bill has been presented to parliament in which the government’s associate health minister said “takes away the last means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product.” [105]

Smoking prevalence by sex (2000)
Percent smoking
Region Men Women
Africa 29% 4%
United States 35% 22%
Eastern Mediterranean 35% 4%
Europe 46% 26%
Southeast Asia 44% 4%
Western Pacific 60% 8%

Source: World Health Organization estimates, 2000

Leading consumers of cigarettes (1998)[106]
Country Population
Cigarettes consumed
Cigarettes consumed
(per capita)
China 1,248 1,643 1,320
USA 270 451 1,670
Japan 126 328 2,600
Russia 146 258 1,760
Indonesia 200 215 1,070
Smoking prevalence in the U.S. (2006)[107]
Rank State % Rank State % Rank State % Rank State %
1 KY 28.6 14 SC 22.3 27 KS 20.0 40 AZ 18.1
2 WV 25.7 15 NV 22.2 28 GA 20.0 41 VT 18.0
3 OK 25.7 16 NC 22.1 29 ND 19.6 42 DC 17.9
4 MS 25.1 17 DE 21.7 30 VA 19.3 43 CO 17.9
5 AK 24.2 18 WY 21.6 31 RI 19.3 44 MA 17.8
6 IN 24.1 19 PA 21.5 32 MT 19.0 45 MD 17.8
7 AR 23.7 20 IA 21.5 33 NH 18.7 46 HI 17.5
8 LA 23.4 21 FL 21.0 34 NE 18.6 47 WA 17.1
9 MO 23.3 22 ME 20.9 35 OR 18.5 48 CT 17.0
10 AL 23.3 23 WI 20.8 36 NY 18.3 49 ID 16.8
11 TN 22.6 24 IL 20.5 37 MN 18.3 50 CA 14.9
12 OH 22.5 25 SD 20.4 38 TX 18.1 51 UT 9.8
13 MI 22.4 26 NM 20.2 39 NJ 18.1


Cigarettes labeled as “Lights,” “Milds,” or “Low-tar,” are considered to have a “lighter,” less pronounced flavor than regular cigarettes. These cigarette brands may also contain lower levels of tar, nicotine, or other chemicals inhaled by the smoker.[108] The filter design is one of the main differences between light and regular cigarettes, although not all cigarettes contain perforated holes in the filter anymore. In some light cigarettes, the filter is perforated with small holes that theoretically diffuse the tobacco smoke with clean air. In regular cigarettes, the filter does not include these perforations. In ultra-light cigarettes, the filter’s perforations are larger, and in theory, these larger holes produce an even smaller smoke to air ratio.

The majority of major cigarette manufacturers offer a light, low-tar, and/or mild cigarette brand. Due to recent U.S. legislation prohibiting the use of these descriptors, tobacco manufacturers are turning to color-coding to allow consumers to differentiate between regular and light brands.[109]

The scientific evidence is that switching from regular to light or low-tar cigarettes does not reduce the health risks of smoking or lower the smoker’s exposure to the nicotine, tar, and carcinogens present in cigarette smoke.[110][111][112]

Notable cigarette brands

Marlboro, world's most recognized and best selling cigarette brand.

Electronic cigarette

First generation electronic cigarette resembling a tobacco cigarette

An electronic cigarette (e-cig or e-cigarette) is a battery-powered device which simulates tobacco smoking by producing a vapor that resembles smoke. In general, a heating element known as an atomizer is used to vaporize a liquid solution. Solutions usually contain a mixture of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings,[113] while others release a flavored vapor without nicotine.[114]

The benefits and risks of electronic cigarette use are uncertain.[115][116] Some research indicates that the health risks are much lower than regular cigarettes and similar to nicotine replacement therapy.[117][118]

Health effects


Artistas brand cigarette package of Mexico from the Museo del Objeto del Objeto collection

  • US Center for Disease Control - Smoking and Health Database
  • GLOBALink
  • National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health - Canada
  • Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
  • Bibliography on History of Cigarette Smoking

External links

  • Bogden JD, Kemp FW, Buse M, et al. (January 1981). "Composition of tobaccos from countries with high and low incidences of lung cancer. I. Selenium, polonium-210, Alternaria, tar, and nicotine". J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 66 (1): 27–31.  
  • Zhou, Xun Yu; Gilman, Sander L. (2004). Smoke: a global history of smoking. London: Reaktion Books.  

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See also

Studies have shown that it takes between 6 to 12 weeks post quitting before the amount of nicotinic receptors in the brain return to the level of a non smoker.[137]

Tobacco contains the chemical nicotine. Smoking cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction.[136]:2300–2301 The addiction begins when nicotine acts on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors to release neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid.[136]:2296 Cessation of smoking leads to symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as anxiety and irritability.[136]:2298 Professional smoking cessation support methods generally endeavour to address both nicotine addiction and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

  • In a growing number of countries, there are more ex-smokers than smokers.[134]
  • Early "failure" is a normal part of trying to stop, and more than one attempt at stopping smoking prior to longer-term success is common.[134]
  • NRT, other prescribed pharmaceuticals, and professional counselling or support also help many smokers.[134]
  • However, up to three-quarters of ex-smokers report having quit without assistance ("cold turkey" or cut down then quit), and cessation without professional support or medication may be the most common method used by ex-smokers.[134]

At the University of Buffalo, researchers found out that fruit and vegetable consumption can help a smoker cut down or even quit smoking[135]

Smoking cessation can be achieved with or without assistance from healthcare professionals or the use of medications.[134] Methods that have been found to be effective include interventions directed at or via health care providers and health care systems; medications including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and varenicline; individual and group counselling; and Web-based or stand-alone and computer programs. Although stopping smoking can cause short-term side effects such as reversible weight gain, smoking cessation services and activities are cost-effective because of the positive health benefits.

Smoking cessation (colloquially quitting smoking) is the process of discontinuing the practice of inhaling a smoked substance.[133]

Smoking cessation

Second-hand smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished, and can cause a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.[128] Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%. Second-hand smoke has been estimated to cause 38,000 deaths per year, of which 3,400 are deaths from lung cancer in non-smokers.[129] Sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, respiratory infections, and asthma attacks can occur in children that are exposed to second-hand smoke.[130][131][132] Scientific evidence shows that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.[130][131]

Second-hand smoke

There are, however, some potential health benefits to smoking: According to a review of epidemiological studies "...cigarette smokers are 50% less likely to have PD[Parkinson's disease] or AD[Alzheimer's disease] than are age- and gender-matched nonsmokers."[125] "Ulcerative colitis is a condition of nonsmokers in which nicotine is of therapeutic benefit."[126] A recent review of the available scientific literature concluded that the apparent decrease in Alzheimer risk may be simply because smokers tend to die before reaching the age at which Alzheimer normally occurs. "Differential mortality is always likely to be a problem where there is a need to investigate the effects of smoking in a disorder with very low incidence rates before age 75 years, which is the case of Alzheimer's disease," it stated, noting that smokers are only half as likely as non-smokers to survive to the age of 80.[127]

[124] and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century.[123]

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