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A cigarette will burn to ash on one end.

A cigarette is a small paper-wrapped cylinder 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.

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 Turks 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. This is done 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. 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 cigarette's smoke; the filter serves to cool and somewhat clean the smoke.

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. In the UK you can buy them once you're 16.

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 Acetone,Carbon monoxide,Benzene,Tar and Caffeine.

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.


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
Eastern Mediterranean354
South-East Asia444
Western Pacific608
(2000, World Health Organization estimates)

The country of Turkey leads the world in individual percentage of adults who smoking, with 60% of the population being smokers.

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 smoking, cigarettes being the most popular method, is one of the major causes of preventable death. Specifically, cigarette smoking is associated with lung cancer, the leading cause of death amongst smokers. Certain other lung disorders, like emphysema, are also accredited to cigarette smoking. 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, the stimulant and active ingredient in cigarettes, is also quite addictive. It is 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.

The absolute risk of lung cancer from "smoking in general" varies, depending on method of smoking, substance, frequency and intensity of use. On the other hand, inhalation of toxic to carcinogenic additives, like radon and radium-226, primarily are 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.

In 1990, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop declared that "radioactivity, not tar, accounts for at least 90 percent of all smoking related lung cancer."

For many years the tobacco industry presented research of its own that countered emerging medical research about the addictive nature and adverse health effects of cigarettes. But in the same time period, anti-smoking campaigners like the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have also been suspected of using faulty reasoning. In 1993, an EPA report estimated that 3,000 lung cancer related deaths in the U.S. were caused by passive smoking each year. Tobacco industry lobbyists, aggressively attacked the EPA study. In 1998 the U.S. District Court in North Carolina struck down that report, ruling that the EPA had based its report on inadequate science, improper technique, and failed to demonstrate a statistically significant relationship between second-hand smoke and lung cancer.

Regardless, many countries and jurisdictions have instituted public smoking bans. In New York City ( smoking is forbidden in most all workplaces, although not enforced in some small neighborhood bars. It is become a nationwide trend with states from California to Delaware banning cigarettes in restaurants and bars, causing much controversy between smokers, non-smokes, workers, and owners. Southern States, such as Virginia, Tennesse, and North Carolina will be much harder to impose such bans, as tobbacco is a major source of the economy. Often smoking is allowed on the street (though in Delaware you must be 250 away from any public building) however in Japan, it is against the law to smoke outside on the street.


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