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File:Zwei zigaretten.jpg
Two unlit filtered cigarettes.

A cigarette is a product consumed via smoking and manufactured out of cured and finely cut tobacco leaves, which are combined with other additives, then rolled or stuffed into a paper-wrapped cylinder (generally less than 120 mm in length and 10 mm in diameter). The cigarette is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder for the purpose of inhalation of its smoke from the other (usually filtered) end, which is usually inserted in the mouth. They are sometimes smoked with a cigarette holder. The term cigarette, as commonly used, refers to a tobacco cigarette but can apply to similar devices containing other herbs, such as cannabis. They are colloquially known as "cigs", "ciggies", "smokes", "stogies", "squares", and "fags".

Cigarettes are proven to be highly addictive, as well as a cause of multiple types of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, circulatory disease and birth defects.[1][2]

A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its smaller size, use of processed leaf, and white paper wrapping. Cigars are typically composed entirely of whole leaf tobacco.


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 that have been attested in 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 method of smoking in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America until recent times.[3]

Cigarettes were largely unknown in the English-speaking world before the Crimean War, when British soldiers began emulating their Ottoman Turkish comrades, who resorted to rolling their tobacco with newsprint.[4]

The cigarette was named some time in the 18th century: beggars in Seville began to pick from the ground the cigar ends left by the señoritos (rich young men), wrapped the tobacco remains with paper and smoked them. The first attested use in this habit can be seen in three 18th century paintings by Francisco de Goya: La cometa (The kite), La merienda en el Manzanares (Picnic by the river Manzanares) and El juego de la pelota a pala (The ball and paddle game).

In the George Bizet opera Carmen, which was set in Spain in the 1830s, the title character Carmen was at first a worker in a cigarette factory.

The use of tobacco in cigarette form became increasingly popular during and after the Crimean War. This was helped by the development of tobaccos that are suitable for cigarette use. During World War I and World War II, cigarettes were rationed to soldiers. During the second half of the 20th century, the adverse health effects of cigarettes started to become widely known and text-only health warnings became commonplace on cigarette packets. The United States has not yet implemented graphical cigarette warning labels, which is a more effective method to communicate to the public the dangers of cigarette smoking.[5] Canada and Australia, 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 remove some of the tar before it reaches the smoker.


Commercially manufactured cigarettes are relatively 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.[6] While the assembly of cigarettes is straightforward, much focus is given to the creation of each of the components, in particular, the tobacco blend, which often contains over one hundred ingredients.[7]


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 stabilise 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.[8]

Tobacco blend

File:Cigaret tobacco.JPG
The tobacco part viewed from a cigarette

The process of blending, like the blending of scotch and cognac, gives the end product a consistent taste from batches of tobacco grown in different areas of a country that may change in flavour profile from year to year due to different environmental conditions.[9]

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").[9] 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[10]
  • Reconstituted leaf (RL) sheet: A paper-like material made from tobacco stems and "class tobacco", which consists of tobacco particles less than 30 mesh in size (~0.599 mm) that is collected at any stage of tobacco processing.[11] RL is made by extracting the soluble chemicals in the tobacco by-products, processing the left-over tobacco fibres 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
  • 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.[9]

Whole tobacco can also be processed into a product called Expanded tobacco. The tobacco is "puffed", or expanded, by saturating it with Supercritical carbon dioxide and heating the CO2 saturated tobacco to quickly evaporate the CO2. This quick change of physical state by the CO2 causes the tobacco to expand in a similar fashion as Polystyrene foam. This is used to produce light cigarettes by reducing the density of the tobacco and thus maintain the size of a cigarette while reducing the amount of tobacco used in each cigarette.[9]

A recipe specified combination of bright-leaf, burley and oriental leaf tobacco with be mixed with humectants such as propylene glycol or glycerol, as well as flavouring products and enhancers such as cocoa, 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.[9] As well, 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.

In recent years, the manufacturers' pursuit of maximum profits has led to the practice of using not just the leaves, but the plant stem also.[12] The stem is first crushed and cut to resemble the leaf before being merged or blended into the cut leaf.[13]


File:Smoking symbol.png
A smoking symbol, usually signifying that smoking is allowed.
File:Cigarettecounter pd.jpg
A Woolworths supermarket cigarette counter in NSW, Australia. Other Australian states currently prohibit such large displays.

Before the Second World War many manufacturers gave away collectible cards, one in each packet of cigarettes. This practice was discontinued to save paper during the war and was never generally reintroduced, though for a number of years Natural American Spirit cigarettes included "vignette" cards depicting endangered animals and American historical events; this series was discontinued in 2003. On April 1, 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, banning cigarette advertisements on television in the United States starting on January 2, 1971. However some tobacco companies attempted to circumvent the ban by marketing new brands of cigarettes as "little cigars"; examples included Tijuana Smalls, which came out almost immediately after the ban took effect, and Backwoods Smokes, which reached the market in the winter of 1973–1974 and whose ads used the slogan, "How can anything that looks so wild taste so mild."

Beginning on April 1, 1998, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under 18 is now prohibited by law in all fifty states of the United States. The legal age of purchase has been additionally raised to 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, Utah, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Onondaga Counties in New York.[14] Legislation was pending as of 2004 in some other states. In Massachusetts[15] and Virginia[citation needed], 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, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, 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, and Pakistan have a nationwide ban on the selling of all tobacco products to people under the age of 18.

In the UK, beginning 1st October 2007, it will be illegal for retailers to sell tobacco in all forms to people under the age of 18 in three of the four of the UKs constituent countries (England, Wales & Scotland) (rising from 16). It will also be illegal to sell lighters, rolling papers and all other tobacco associated items to people under 18. However, it will not be illegal for people under 18 to buy (or attempt to buy) or indeed smoke tobacco, it is only illegal for the said retailer to sell the item. Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit with the age increase. In the Republic of Ireland bans on the sale of the smaller ten-packs and confectionery that resembles tobacco products came into force on May 31, 2007 in a bid to cut under-aged smoking. The UK Department of Health plans to follow suit with the ten-pack ban.

File:Tabak-Trafik 12.2006.jpg
Tabak-Trafik in Vienna. Since January 1, 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.

Most countries in the world have a legal smoking age of 18. Six exceptions are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and The Netherlands, where the age is 16. Since January 1, 2007 all cigarette machines in public places in Germany must attempt to verify a customers age by requiring the insertion of a debit card. Turkey, which has one of the highest percentage of smokers in its population,[citation needed] has a legal age of 18. Another curiosity is Japan, one of the highest tobacco consuming nations, which requires purchasers to be 20 years of age (Suffrage in Japan is 20 years old.[16]) However, due to the prevalence of cigarette vending machines in the most public of places the effectiveness of an underage ban is in doubt.[citation needed] In other countries, such as Egypt or India (especially Kerala) it is legal to use and purchase tobacco products regardless of age.

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.[17] Similar enforcement practices are regularly performed by Trading Standards Officers in the UK.[18]


File:Cigarettes health warning australia.jpg
Cigarette packs in Australia with graphic health warnings

Approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes are produced globally each year by the tobacco industry, smoked by over 1.1 billion people, which is more than 1/6 of the world's total population.

Smoking Prevalence by Gender
United States3522
Eastern Mediterranean354
Southeast Asia444
Western Pacific608
(2000, World Health Organization estimates)

Smoking bans

Many governments impose restrictions on smoking tobacco, especially in public areas. The primary justification has been the negative health effects of secondhand smoke.[19] Laws vary by country and locality. See:

Cigarette litter

A cigarette disposal canister, encouraging the public to dispose of their cigarettes properly.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. Discarded butts can be found almost any place accessible to people, including streets, sidewalks, parks and beaches. The butts of filtered cigarettes are not biodegradable. The filters, made of cellulose acetate, take many years to decompose. Many of the filters end up in waterways, where the toxic chemicals that they are designed to filter out are leached into the water supply.[20]

Cigarette advertising

In many parts of the world tobacco advertising and even sponsorship of sporting events 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. As of 2007, only Ferrari retains tobacco sponsorship, continuing their relationship with Marlboro until 2011.


  1. "Smoking While Pregnant Causes Finger, Toe Deformities". Science Daily. Retrieved March 6. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. List of health effects by CDC
  3. Robicsek, Francis Smoke; Ritual Smoking in Central America pp. 30-37
  6. Clean Virginia Waterways, Cigarette Butt Litter - Cigarette Filters, Longwood University, Retrieved October 31 2006
  7. Philip Morris USA, Product Information -Cigarette ingredients, Retrieved March 5 2007
  8. JTI, ""Composite List of Ingredients in Non-Tobacco Materials""., Retrieved November 2 2006
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 David E. Merrill, (1994), "How cigarettes are made". Video presentation at Philip Morris USA, Richmond offices. Retrieved October 31 2006
  10. ""PCL Sheet Tobacco Cigarettes""., Retrieved November 2 2006
  11. Grant Gellatly, "" Method and apparatus for coating reconstituted tobacco""., Retrieved November 2 2006
  14. News 10 Now (19 December 2006), "Lawmakers raise minimum age on purchasing tobacco products". Retrieved December 19 2006
  15. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 270 (Crimes Against Public Health), Section 6 (Tobacco; sale or gift to minors) [1]
  18. BBC News, "Retailers sell tobacco to youths", September 2005. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  19. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; First international treaty on public health, adopted by 192 countries and signed by 168. Its Article 8.1 states "Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco causes death, disease and disability."
  20. "". Retrieved 2007-05-28.


  • Bogden JD, Kemp FW, Buse M, Thind IS, Louria DB, Forgacs J, Llanos G, Moncoya Terrones I. (1981) Composition of tobaccos from countries with high and low incidences of lung cancer. I. Selenium, polonium-210, Alternaria, tar, and nicotine. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 66: 27-31.
  • Hecht SS (1999) Tobacco Smoke Carcinogens and Lung Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute
  • Smoke: A Global History of Smoking (2004) edited by Sander L. Gilman and Zhou Xun ISBN 1-86189-200-4

See also

External links

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