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. The cigarette is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder for the purpose of inhalation of its smoke from the filtered 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.

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. 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. While this is true for many brands of cigarettes, in Canada, the major cigarette brands all contain 100% natural virginia leaf - No Additives. Some cigarettes (known as kreteks, clove cigarettes, or simply cloves) have cloves blended with the tobacco. This is done to enhance the smokers 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.

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 it doesnt 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 10 or 20 cigarettes in the United States and UK or 25 in Canada. Commercial cigarettes usually contain a cellulose acetate or cotton filter through which the smoker inhales the cigarettes smoke; the filter serves to cool and somewhat clean the smoke.

Recently, cigarette rolling machines are also becoming popular. One can purchase tobacco in pouches or cans, usually at half the price of what one would pay for 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, while unfiltered papers will come in packs ranging from 12 to 64, and some contain even more.


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. During the second world war they gave out free cigarettes to the soldiers and citizens. 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 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. In Massachusetts, parents and guardians are allowed to give cigarettes to minors, but sales to minors are prohibited. Legislation was successfully passed on Long Island (New York) to raise the legal age in Suffolk county to 19, effective January 1st, 2005.

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 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 has a nation-wide ban on the selling of all tobacco products to people under 18.

In the UK, cigarettes can legally be sold only to people aged 16 and over. However it is not illegal for people under this age to buy (or attempt to buy) cigarettes, so only the retailer is breaking the law by selling to under 16s.

However, while bans stand in most countries for sales to minors, it is still common for merchants to disregard such laws as they are tough to enforce. Often the profits from selling cigarettes to minors illegally are much greater than the fines paid out in very infrequent times when they are caught. Some police departments in the United States occasionally send a clearly underage child into a store where cigarettes are sold, and have the child attempt to purchase cigarettes. If the vendor sells them to the minor, the store is issued a fine. This is by far the most common way in which cigarette vendors are caught when they sell cigarettes to minors.

Online cigarette stores

Online stores have recently appeared that offer foreign cigarettes to internet buyers. As many jurisdictions place high taxes on tobacco sales, these could be seen as an effort to avoid paying duty or taxes.

Some online cigarette stores exist to sell tax-free cigarettes inside ones own country of residence as well. The legality of these stores is 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, contending tax evasion over Michigans $2-a-pack law.

This same action has also taken place in Wisconsin after the Wisconsin Department of Revenue received a list of several thousand buyers in that state from an online cigarette merchant. However, the effort to collect on the taxes from the listed residents was stopped by order of Governor Jim Doyle a few days later.

Health effects

Smoking has been linked to lung cancer by many medical research institutions throughout the world (through the use of observational studies). Recent findings by the World Health Organization suggest that U.S. white male smokers have an 8% chance of acquiring lung cancer at some point in their lives, as opposed to the 2% chance of acquiring lung cancer among U.S. white male non-smokers. However, moderate cigarette smoking (<2 cigarettes daily) as well as second-hand smoke inhalation show no increase in lung cancer rates among U.S. white males in all credited observational studies.

Certain other lung disorders, like emphysema, are also linked to cigarette smoking. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and underweight infants. Smoking also increases the chance of heart attacks and a variety of cancers. Long-term smokers tend to look older than nonsmokers of the same age, because smoking can increase wrinkling in the skin.

Nicotine, the stimulant and active ingredient in cigarettes, is highly addictive. Children and pets may be poisoned from eating cigarettes or cigarette butts.

Inhalation of toxic to carcinogenic components of tobacco smoke, like radon and radium-226, is understood to cause lung cancer. Much of the farmland used to grow tobacco in the United States is contaminated with radioactive material as a result of using phosphate-rich fertilizers. Studies by Winters et al., in the New England Journal of Medicine (1982), found that skeletons of cigarette smokers contained deposits of lead-210 and polonium-210, two isotopes formed by radioactive decay of radium found in the soil where tobacco plants are grown.

For many years the tobacco industry presented research of its own in an attempt to counter emerging medical research about the addictive nature and adverse health effects of cigarettes. According to a 1994 prosecution memo written by Congressman Martin Meehan to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, many of these studies were found to be flawed due to their strong bias and poor methodology. A 2001 peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health correctly accuses tobacco companies of using front groups and biased studies to downplay the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke.

Many countries and jurisdictions have instituted public smoking bans. In New York City, smoking is forbidden in almost all workplaces, although not enforced in some small neighborhood bars. In the USA, smoking is being banned in restaurants and bars. States from California to Delaware have adopted such a ban, causing much controversy between smokers, non-smokers, workers, and owners. Such bans are least popular in Southern states of the USA, such as Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, where tobacco continues to be a large part of the economy. In other states, these bans are extremely popular and seen as long overdue. Often smoking is allowed on the street (though in Delaware you must be 250 feet away from any public building), but in many locations of Japan it is against the law. In 2004, smoking was outlawed in all public buildings in the state of Maine. The 2004 ban on smoking in bars and resturaunts in New Zealand met with initial resentment from some bar owners, but was widely welcomed by the public at large. In many parts of the world tobacco advertising and even sponsorship of sporting events is not allowed. The ban on tobacco sponsorship in the EU in 2005 has prompted the Formula One Management to look for races in areas that allow the heavily tobacco sponsored teams to display their livery, and has also lead to some of the more popular races on the calendar being cancelled in favour of more tobacco friendly markets.

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.

The amounts 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.


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 and severe health warnings became commonplace on cigarette packets.

The advent of the Internet revealed the prevalence of capnolagnia, a sexual fetish in which one gains gratification from watching others smoke, usually women smoking cigarettes.

Slang terms for cigarettes

Cigarettes have accumulated a variety of nicknames such as smokes, butts, square (from the shape of the box), cigs, ciggies, stogs, stogies, snouts, tabs (especially in NE England), loosey (a single cigarette), bogeys, boges, darts, straights (for factory rolled ones), dugans (especially in NYC), hairy rags, hausersticks, jacks, grits and fags (the term fag is used more commonly in the United Kingdom; in the United States and Canada, it is primarily a derogatory term for a male homosexual). Cigarettes have also attracted somewhat fatalistic nicknames related to their effect on the smokers health, such as coffin nails, cancer sticks, gaspers or even black lungs in terms of the smoker. In Australia, cigarettes are sometimes called Doogans or Durries. A relatively new term emerged with the release of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones after a main character was offered a death stick in a nightclub. Cigarettes are also known in New Zealand as rollies for the self-rolled cigarettes and tailies for the factory rolled.



Most popular brands, worldwide

  1. Marlboro
  2. Hongtashan
  3. Mild Seven

Other brands

  • Belomorkanal
  • Benson & Hedges
  • Basic
  • Camel
  • Carlton
  • Chesterfield
  • Consulate
  • Davidoff
  • Doral
  • Ducados
  • Death
  • Derby
  • Dunhill
  • Djarum
  • Eclipse
  • Embassy
  • Fortuna
  • Gauloises
  • Gauloises Blondes
  • Golden Beach
  • Gold Flake
  • KOOL
  • L&M
  • Lambert & Butler
  • Lark
  • Lucky Strike
  • Mayfair
  • Medallion
  • Mocne
  • Moors
  • Nat Sherman
  • Natural American Spirit
  • Next
  • Newport
  • Old Gold
  • Pall Mall
  • Parliament
  • Prince
  • Português
  • R6
  • Richmond
  • Rothmans
  • Roxy
  • Salem
  • SG
  • Silk Cut
  • Superkings
  • Viceroy
  • Virginia Slims
  • Winfield
  • Winston


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Cigarette.

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