Cigarette Filters

There is no doubt that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Lung cancer is predominant in smokers due to the tar and other chemicals contained in the smoke. However, studies have shown that similar cancers can also be linked to cigarette filters that were manufactured around the 1950s. These filters contained what is called crocidolite or blue asbestos. It has proven to be a very toxic material to inhale.

The main promoters of this filter were the P. Lorillard Company, who made the famous Kent Cigarettes. A large part of their advertising focused on the brand’s new Micronite filter. They were not the first to introduce a filtered cigarette, but they were among the first, and others followed their lead.  Between 1952 and mid-1956, when the asbestos filters were in place, P. Lorillard sold approximately 585 million packs for a total of nearly 1.7 billion cigarettes.  Recent tests on a package of vintage Kent cigarettes from the 1950s shows that each filter contained about 10 mg of crocidolite asbestos.

The people who suffered as a result of this filter were not just those who smoked Kents in the 1950s, but also those who worked in factories where the filter was made. Asbestos inhalation was common and over time, many of them developed pulmonary illnesses. While all forms of asbestos are dangerous, crocidolite is correlated the most highly with mesothelioma.  The P. Lorillard Company eventually redesigned their cigarette filters with activated charcoal instead of asbestos, but for many of their employees and customers, the damage had been done.


American Association of Cancer Research