Filtered vs. Unfiltered Cigarettes


Before the 1950s, all cigarettes were sold without filters. At the time, no health risks were associated with smoking and cigarettes were not considered dangerous. During the 1950s, however, cigarettes were linked to a greater risk of lung cancer. The filtered cigarette was the industry's solution to eliminating public concern over cigarette safety.

What the Filter Does

  • The purpose of the cigarette filter is to reduce the amounts of nicotine and tar consumed. As a smoker inhales, smoke from the lit end flows up through the cigarette and into the mouth and lungs. The filter is designed to contain tiny perforations that allow air to flow into the filter and smoke to flow out. The idea is that air will flow into the filter, driving out a portion of the smoke and reducing the amount of actual smoke inhaled. The less smoke the smoker inhales, the less tar and nicotine enter his system. The only difference between filtered and unfiltered cigarettes is that unfiltered cigarettes allow slightly higher levels of smoke into the smoker's system.

Do Filters Work?

  • The problem with cigarette filters is that the primary reason people smoke is a physical addiction to nicotine. Reducing the amount of nicotine the body receives from a single cigarette does not eliminate the craving. Therefore, the usual side effect of a cigarette filter is that it encourages the smoker to simply smoke more. Some people may even cut the filter off their cigarettes before smoking them. The problem is the body's addiction to nicotine, not necessarily the amount per cigarette.


  • Nicotine is a chemical that exists naturally in tobacco. Tobacco is a plant and is the primary ingredient in cigarettes. While tobacco contains thousands of chemicals, nicotine is the one that health authorities believe is responsible for the euphoric or relaxing side effects of tobacco. Many cigarette manufacturers add additional chemicals to their product, some of which may include increased amounts of nicotine other than the amount normally found in tobacco. While many laws exist to monitor and regulate the levels of toxic substances in cigarettes, tobacco (which invariably contains nicotine) remains the main ingredient. Filtered cigarettes reduce the amount of nicotine that enters the smoker's body. Though they do not completely safeguard against nicotine inhalation, they offer much more protection than cigarettes without filters.

Alternatives to Smoking

  • The obvious answer to how to avoid nicotine addiction is not to start smoking in the first place. Once addicted, however, quitting can be difficult. Most smokers who try to kick the habit fail their first attempt.

    Many products and services are available to try and help people give up smoking. Nicotine gum is among the most popular. By eliminating the cigarette it eliminates the tar. Nicotine is still induced into the system, but is generally administered through patches or gum. The patch slows down the rate by which nicotine enters the system as the nicotine must enter the body through the skin rather than being directly inhaled. While this does not necessarily eliminate nicotine cravings, it reduces the risk of lung cancer with unfiltered or filtered cigarettes.


  • Cigarettes were originally rolled using corn husks. In the 17th century, corn husks were replaced with paper. In the 1830s cigarettes reached France, where they received their current name. Cigarette comes from the Spanish word "sigarito." It was not until the early 1950s that all major distributors of cigarettes began adding filters to some of their products. Now, while unfiltered cigarettes are still available, most smokers prefer to reduce the risk of disease by buying filtered cigarettes.

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