In the pantheon of ideas so crazy they just have to work, we can assume the All Tobacco Filter in Kentucky Kings cigarette, introduced in 1969, is one of the crazy ideas that never worked. Touting its golden tobacco cut “filter fine,” Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company promised that this cigarette would filter smoke naturally for an all-tobacco taste.
Cigarette filters date back to 1925 when a Hungarian inventor, M. Boris Aivarz, applied for a patent for the design of a filter tip made of crepe paper, cellulose–and a machine to manufacture them.¹ The proliferation of cigarettes with filters gradually increased in the 1930s and 1940s, then soared in the 1950s after the publication of the first scientific studies showing that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. Filters were promoted as having a variety of materials such as charcoal, cellulose acetate, perforated paper, and polypropylene glycol.² The misleading terms “low tar,” “mild,” and “light” would be added to advertising for filtered cigarettes in the 1960s. Deceptive testing practices provided results that demonstrated the effectiveness of filters, but perforated or so-called ventilated filters “smoked” by machines skewed the results in favor of cigarette manufacturers. In actual smoking, the smoker ‘s lips cover up the perforations. Cigarette butts, which contain the filter, comprise the vast majority of tobacco waste and continue to pose a toxic hazard to the environment.
While Brown and Williamson’s all-tobacco filter might seem absurd, consider that Kent’s Micronite Filter was developed using asbestos, a powerful carcinogen.³ Perhaps the All Tobacco Filter wasn’t that bad of an idea… still a bad idea, but not that bad.