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A cigarette is a small paper-wrapped cylinder (generally less than 120mm in length and 10mm in diameter) of cured and shredded or cut tobacco leaves which is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder for the purpose of allowing inhalation of its smoke from the other end, inserted in the mouth. The term, as commonly used, typically refers to a tobacco cigarette, but can apply to similar devices containing other herbs, such as cannabis (aka marijuana) (see below).

A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its smaller size, use of processed leaf, and paper wrapping; cigars are typically composed entirely of whole leaf tobacco. A small, cigarette-sized cigar is called a cigarillo. 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.


Manufacture and ingredients

In practice, commercial cigarettes and cigarette tobaccos rarely contain pure tobacco. Manufacturers often use a tremendous variety of additives for a number of purposes, including maintaining blend consistency, improving perceived blend quality, as preservatives, and even completely changing the organoleptic qualities of the tobacco smoke. Some cigarettes (known as kreteks, clove cigarettes, or simply cloves) have cloves blended with the tobacco, to enhance the smoker's pleasure by numbing the mouth and lungs and providing a mild euphoric effect. Lower quality clove cigarettes simply have a clove essence added to the tobacco.

In addition to additives, cigarette tobaccos, especially lower quality blends, are often highly physically processed. During the original processing of leaf for cigarettes, the leaves are deveined, and the lamina is shredded or cut. Since the leaf is relatively dry at this point, these processes result in a significant amount of tobacco dust. Manufacturing operations have developed procedures for collecting this dust and remaking it into usable material (known as reconstituted sheet tobacco).

The removed leaf midveins, which are unsuitable for use in cigarettes in their natural state, were historically discarded or spread on fields, because of their high nitrogen content. Procedures have been developed, however, to "expand" the stems, and process them for inclusion in the cigarette blends. All these procedures allow cigarette manufacturers to produce as many cigarettes as possible using the least amount of raw materials as possible.

Packet of Cigarettes
Packet of Cigarettes

The most common usage of the cigarette is tobacco smoke delivery. The second most common usage of the cigarette is for marijuana smoke delivery. The hand rolled cigarette is the most common form of marijuana cigarette. Marijuana users will usually twist the ends of the cigarette to prevent fine cut marijuana buds from falling out. Tobacco users who roll their own cigarettes, however, will usually not twist the cigarette at the ends; hand rolling tobacco is made in strands so doesn't have a tendency to fall out.

Some cigarette smokers roll their own cigarettes by wrapping loose cured tobacco in paper; most, however, purchase machine-made commercially available brands, generally sold in small cardboard packages of 20 cigarettes. Commercial cigarettes usually contain a cellulose acetate or cotton filter through which the smoker inhales the cigarette's smoke; the filter serves to cool and somewhat clean the smoke.

These days, cigarette rolling machines are also becoming quite popular. One can purchase tobacco in pouches or cans, usually at half the price of what one would pay for a the same amount pre-rolled. One can get a rolling machine that makes filterless, or "straight" cigarettes, or one can purchase a machine that packs the tobacco into a pre-rolled form with a filter. These filtered papers usually come in boxes of 200.

There are many different types of cigarettes,

  • Hand Rolled Cigarettes from Rolling papers
  • Unfiltered Cigarettes (no filter)
  • Regular Filtered Cigarettes (Regular Size)
  • Light Filtered Cigarettes (Are not as Strong)
  • Ultra-Light Filtered Cigarettes (Very Weak)
  • Regular Filtered 100s (Longer)
  • Light Filtered 100s (Longer, Are not as Strong)
  • Ultra-light Filtered 100s (Longer, Very Weak)
  • Regular Slim 120s (Very Long, Skinny)
  • Light Slim 120s (Very Long, Skinny, Are not as Strong)
  • Ultra-Light Slim 120s (Very Long, Skinny, Very Weak)
  • Menthols (Have smoke that induces a cooling sensation)
  • Slims (Cigarette is of smaller diameter)
  • Wides (Cigarette is of larger diameter)

Color Coding on Commercial Cigarette Packs

  • Red packs usually means Full Flavor
  • Gold packs usually means Lights
  • Light Blue, or Silver usually means Ultra-Lights
  • Green usually means Menthols
  • Very Dark Red usually means Unfiltered

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. On April 1, 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law banning cigarette television advertisements 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 hit the market in the winter of 1973-1974 and whose ads used the slogan, "How can anything that looks so wild taste so mild?"

The sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors under 18 is now prohibited by law in all fifty states of the United States (in Alabama, Alaska and Utah the statutory age is 19, and legislation was pending as of 2004 in some other states, including California and New Jersey, to raise the age to 19, or even 21 in some cases). Similar laws exist in many other countries as well. In Canada, most of the provinces require smokers to be 19 years of age to purchase cigarettes (except for Alberta and Quebec, where the age is 18). However, the minimum age only concerns the purchase of tobacco, not use. In Massachusetts, minors are allowed to smoke as long as the cigarette was given to them by a parent or guardian.

Premier was a smokeless cigarette released in the USA in May 1988 by RJR.

Contents of a cigarette

The leaves of the tobacco plant are first dried to make cigarettes, and then treated with a variety of chemicals and many additional ingredients are added. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic. Some of these include:

The amount of these ingredients can vary widely from one brand or type of cigarette to the next. This is especially true of the tar and nicotine content, the range of which is so extreme that an entire carton of some brands of cigarettes (e.g., Carlton) might contain less tar and/or nicotine than a single cigarette of a "full flavor" brand.


Approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes are produced globally each year by the tobacco industry, smoked by over 1.1 billion people.

Smoking Prevalence by Gender
Africa 29 4
Americas 35 22
Eastern Mediterranean 35 4
Europe 46 26
South-East Asia 44 4
Western Pacific 60 8
(2000, World Health Organization estimates)
The front and back of a UK cigarette packet (2003)
The front and back of a UK cigarette packet (2003)


The use of tobacco in cigarette form is a relatively recent invention, becoming increasingly popular after the Crimean War. This was helped by the development of certain types 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.

Health effects

Tobacco use, notably in cigarettes, is one of the major causes of preventable death. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and underweight infants. Smoking increases the chance of heart attacks and a variety of cancers. Smokers may look older than nonsmokers of the same age, because smoking can increase wrinkling in the skin. Smoking increases the metabolic rate, and thus can slightly reduce a smoker's weight.

Nicotine is quite an effective appetite suppressant, and former smokers often develop junk food habits as they attempt to satisfy their tobacco cravings with snacks. One-third of those who stop smoking experience a weight gain.

Cigarette smoking is one of the major causes of lung cancer, a major cause of death amongst smokers. Certain other lung disorders, most notably emphysema, are also blamed on cigarette smoking. The tobacco industry tried for many years to deny this link, and to oppose medical research that attempted to prove the link. The absolute risk of lung cancer from smoking is on the order of one in eight, but the exact risk level varies depending on intensity and duration of use, as well as radon exposure, which is the primary other cause of lung cancer.

In addition, children and pets may be poisoned from eating cigarettes or cigarette butts.

Cigarette manufacturers


Also see, a tobacco information site


(links often show other meanings of the name, in many cases including that which the brand is named after)

Online Cigarette Stores

In an effort to avoid paying duty or taxes, many online stores have appeared that offer out of country cigarettes to avoid taxes in the jurisdiction where the smoker resides.

Online cigarette stores are big business today, but face serious legal competition from the brand manufacturers who do not want to see their profits diminished, as the quality of these cigarettes is just as high but sold at much lower cost for third world countries.

Some online cigarette stores exist to sell tax-free cigarettes inside ones own country of residence as well. The legality of these stores are being questioned currently in the United States. Federal lawmakers contend that these stores are clear tax evasions. Recently in Michigan, several online stores have been subpoenaed by the state for the names and addresses of customers. The state has reportedly been sending out fines for each package purchased, again contending tax evasion over Michigan's $2 a pack law.

External links

Online cigarette stores independent review. Buying cigarettes on the Internet. Some buyers have a big problem after buying cigarettes on the internet.

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13