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Health and Fitness News

Are Filtered Cigarettes Safer?

What you need to know about filtered cigarettes.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists declared cigarettes to be associated with lung cancer. In response to this news, cigarette manufacturers began marketing a new kind of cigarette: those with filters. The filter was intended to make smoking safer, but did it?

Many people believe they’re at a lower risk of lung cancer because they smoke filtered cigarettes. Unfortunately for smokers, studies now show that’s not true. Around the world, an estimated 7 million deaths are attributed to tobacco each year, and filtered cigarettes may be partly to blame. Here’s why.

What’s a Filter?

There are four parts of a cigarette: the filter, tobacco, additives, and wrapper. The filter component of a cigarette is between 20 and 30 millimeters long and is made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate, papers, and rayon. Thousands of thin threads of the cellulose acetate are packed tightly to form a filter that looks like clean, white, harmless cotton.

Cigarette filters were originally invented with the purpose of reducing the amount of tar and nicotine inhaled by the smoker. With each drag, the filter absorbs a portion of the vapors, traps particles of the smoke, and allows more fresh air to mix with the smoke. The filter also helps support the cigarette so it doesn’t flatten in the mouth. Some people claim a filter changes the taste of a cigarette.

The Downside

Smoking a “light” or “ultra-light” cigarette is believed by many people to be safer. Less inhaled smoke is a good thing, right? Possibly. However, the use of filtered cigarettes has backfired. What was supposed to contribute to fewer cases of lung cancer has probably increased its occurrence.

Someone who’s addicted to smoking craves the effects of nicotine. Because a filtered cigarette reduces the amount of nicotine, a smoker ends up smoking more filtered cigarettes to get the same effect that smoking fewer unfiltered cigarettes would provide. This means more money spent on cigarettes and ultimately, more inhaled smoke.

A filter’s tiny fibers trap larger tar particles so that the inhaled smoke feels milder and smoother on your throat. Smoother smoke means deeper drags. What’s in these deeper drags? Despite what you may want to believe, it’s not just harmless fresh air. With each drag, you’re sucking down small smoke particles that contain toxic chemicals and tiny filter fibers that get lodged deep in the lungs.


Since the invention of filters more than 60 years ago there’s been an increase in the number of lethal lung cancers. Called adenocarcinoma, this non-small-cell lung cancer is found deep in the lungs and today makes up more than 80 percent of all lung cancers. Two to three generations ago, only a third of all lung cancers were adenocarcinoma. Many health experts believe the rise in this type of cancer is caused by deep drags that smokers are likely to take on filtered cigarettes.

The Conclusion

Many people continue to believe the myth that smoking filtered cigarettes is less harmful to their health. In reality, it’s putting them in grave danger for a deadly type of lung cancer. In fact, the only people profiting from filtered cigarettes are manufacturing companies, since customers now have to buy more packs to get the nicotine fix they crave.

Without a doubt, the conclusion is that smoking cigarettes is bad for you no matter how you go about it. Therefore, the best way to avoid contracting a cigarette-related disease is to never start smoking in the first place. Too late for that? Talk to your physician about methods to quit. Starting on the road to a smoke-free life today will get back countless tomorrows.