No such thing as a safe cigarette
Long before the dangers of cigarettes were widely publicized, tobacco companies already knew that
their products were hazardous. However, in the interest of growing sales, they never admitted that.
Instead of protecting the public from their dangerous products, cigarette companies came up
with ingenious ways to market their brands. One of this involved the creation of a so-called “safe”
cigarette. They did this by producing filter-tipped cigarettes that supposedly removed or reduced the
harmful by-products of tobacco smoke.
As early as 1958, a scientist working for Philip Morris believed that this idea could turn the bad
publicity hounding cigarettes into another gold mine. Cigarette filters were created in response to the
growing evidence that heavy smoking led to lung cancer and other ills.
By using these so-called filters, Philip Morris could continue marketing “safe” cigarettes and trounce
competitors at the same time. Thus, the myth of “safe” filtered cigarettes was born.
The ruse worked for a while and soon other tobacco companies followed Philip Morris and developed
their own filtered-tipped products. From a measly one percent share in the 1950s, the market for
filtered cigarettes mushroomed to 87% by 1975.
But the use of a filter tip had its drawbacks. Being nicotine addicts, smokers hated the idea of filtered
cigarettes reducing their nicotine fix. Tobacco companies never expected smokers to brand filtered
cigarettes as bland and lacking in flavor.
The filters that supposedly made the cigarettes safer also took away the flavor that smokers were
accustomed to. In time, users resorted to inhaling deeply and smoking more to get the same high
they experienced from non-filtered cigarettes. In effect, they also got the same – if not more – amount
of toxins for their compensatory behavior.
By seeing through the sham of filtered cigarettes, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco
Control Act later prohibited tobacco manufacturers from using the terms “low,” “light” or “mild” when
describing different brands of cigarettes. This was done to protect consumers from the belief that
filtered or light cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. Thus, Marlboro Lights – the nation’s best-
selling brand from Philip Morris – was called Marlboro Gold while Marlboro Ultralights took the name
of Marlboro Silver.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a safe cigarette. While light cigarettes often have less tar,
smokers who take long, deep or frequent puffs receive the same amount of tar found in a regular
cigarette, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of this,
smoking light cigarettes will make you susceptible to lung cancer and other cancers as well. They can
contribute to emphysema and heart disease. They also produce secondhand smoke that can harm
The CDC said that changes in design to create different filter sizes, ventilation holes to dilute the
amount of smoke, and chemical additives mean nothing since they do not contribute in any way to a
Some smokers believe that switching to milder cigarettes can help them kick the habit. But the CDC
said there is no evidence to support this claim. It said that smokers of light cigarettes might be less
motivated to quit, thinking that their brand is less harmful.