Did cigarettes ever contain asbestos filters?

Claim:

A brand of cigarettes in the 1950s, Kent cigarettes, used extremely toxic asbestos in their filters.

Valuation:

TRUE

A photo of a cigarette with blue asbestos in the filter is widely shared on various social media channels, including Reddit:

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These photos typically identify the item depicted as a Kent cigarette with a “micronite filter”. Micronite filters using crocidolite asbestos were used exclusively in Kent cigarettes from 1952 to 1956. Crocidolite is a blue asbestos that matches the viral photos shared on social media. Somewhat perversely, these asbestos filters were advertised as a health and safety feature in the 1950s:

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(The Des Moines Register 27 Sep 1953)

As we now know, crocidolite is one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos that a human can be exposed to, partly because it is easily inhaled. When described from Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center:

Crocidolite consists of extremely fine, sharp fibers that are particularly easy to inhale. Studies show that crocidolite is so dangerous that it may be responsible for more illness and death than any other type of asbestos.

A Study 1995 attempted to quantify the exposure one would experience from smoking a Kent cigarette:

A filter contained about 10 mg of crocidolite. Crocidolite structures were found in the main smoke of the first two puffs of each cigarette smoked. At the observed release rates of asbestos, a person smoking a pack of these cigarettes a day would ingest more than 131 million crocidolite structures longer than 5 microns in a year.

kents were marketed at that time by the Lorillard Tobacco Company, which was acquired in 2014 by the owner of Camel and Newport Cigarettes – Reynolds American Inc. Since then, these new owners have settled $42.3 million to resolve 165 asbestos filter cases.

Since the photo shows – and accurately describes – a real product from the 1950s, the claim is true.

Sources:

“Asbestos Cigarette Filters: History of Kent Micronite & Lawsuits.” Mesothelioma Center – Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families, Accessed January 12, 2023.

Longo, WE, et al. “Crocidolite Asbestos Fibers in Smoke from Original Kent Cigarettes.” Cancer Research, Vol. 55, No. 11, June 1995, pp. 2232-35.

Retrieved January 12, 2023.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/kent-cigarettes-asbestos-filters/ Did cigarettes ever contain asbestos filters?

Brian Ashcraft

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