The ostensible purpose of a cigarette filter is to make the smoke safer for a person to inhale. Supposedly, filtered cigarettes provide a person with all the benefits and taste of smoke but with fewer risks such as heart attack or cancer. Every smoker has, at least once, accidentally lit his cigarette from the filter end. There have been rumors and Internet crazes over the years that the materials in the filter contain amazingly harmful chemicals and that lighting them up and inhaling the fumes can cause everything from cancer to genital malfunction. Taking a closer look at just what filters are made of can put these claims to bed.
Modern cigarette filters are made up mostly of cellulose acetate. This is a mesh of fibers that is supposed to act like a net, catching poisonous elements from cigarette smoke. This material is the same thing that tissue paper and paper napkins are composed of. Other ingredients contained in a cigarette filter are triacetin, mineral oil, titanium dioxide, sorbitan monolaureate and ethoxylated sorbitan monolaureate. Whenever a person smokes a filtered cigarette, he is also inhaling small particles of the filter, which isn't healthy, but it's far from the worst effect of cigarette smoking.
Modern cigarette filters don't pose any major, enhanced danger to cigarette smokers (worse than actually smoking the cigarette it's attached to) according to the companies that produce them. However, this has not always been the case. In the early 1950s, Phillip Morris was using a form of asbestos in its cigarette filters because, at the time, asbestos was thought to be safe. The result was a bizarre and unique form of cancer found in people who smoked these cigarettes. Phillip Morris also suffered filter problems in the 1990s when a batch of regularly filtered cigarettes was contaminated with a pesticide. Both of these products, according to snopes.com, which published the historical accounts, were recalled once the danger was realized. It's scandals like this that endure and make the rumors of strange chemicals being placed in modern cigarette filters so compelling for people.