Old Cigarettes vs. New Cigarettes

I’m reading a delightful 1892 novel by James M. Barrie, “My Lady Nicotine.” It’s about a fellow who gets addicted to that dreadful vice of smoking . . . Got me to wondering. Which were worse for you, the cigs of 100 years ago (with no filters) or the cigs of today (with filters—but also with added chemicals)?

This is NOT a “why not quit?” thread or an “anti-smoking Nazis” thread; simply a scientific inquiry about how cigarettes have changed over the years.

If I’m not mistaken, people have ALWAYS added stuff to smoking tobacco. This goes for not only those bizarre pipe tobacco mixes (Rum and Maple!!!) but also for cigarettes. The Indians didn’t smoke tobacco straight, but had their own special mixes.

Of course, the things they add today sound much more industrial and chemical. I honestly have no idea how “new” tobacco compares with “old” Tobacco using any yardstick – health, addictivity, or taste.

While we’re on the subject, could anyone tell me how much of a benefit the filter is from a health perspective? &On the rare occassion I feel like smoking, I happen to prefer Lucky Strike unfiltereds, and was wondering how these stack up to “normal” cigarettes.

The “filter” was a gimmick dreamed up by the tobacco companies. It kept tobacco out of your mouth, provided a firm mouthpiece, and, most importantly, was an attempt to convince smokers that filter cigarettes were safer.

The commercial cigarettes of today are more regulated. Say you buy brand A cigarettes - which specify ‘X’ amount of tar and ‘X’ amount of nicotine. You can rest assure that those concentrations are roughly correct.

See, the tobacco companies have various methods (freeze drying, blending, etc… ) which thus lower or raise the X value of nicotine (specifically) & tar to match the specifications of a certain brand type.

IIRC these methods of manipulation came about in the 70s. So it’s safe to assume that over 30 years ago (give or take ten) the chemical makeup from crop to crop within a certain cigarette brand could vary widely.

The method of raising the nicotine value for a weak tobacco crop to match a brand’s X value is a large part of what the tobacco lawsuits are about. Sad really.

It’s notable that Barrie makes a case that the hero is “addicted” to smoking, as far back as 1892—so some of the effects of My Lady Nicotine must have been known more than 100 years ago.

Along with the standardized nicotine levels Silo is talking about, modern cigarettes are doped with chemicals that make the nicotine easier for the body to assimilate (mostly ammonia compounds which make the smoke alkaline).

So, yeah. Modern cigarettes are more addictive.

Smokers of filtered cigarettes get lung cancer at approximately the same rate as smokers of nonfiltered cigarettes. But filtered cigs are more likely to lead to adenocarcinoma, and nonfiltered cigs to squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is harder to treat and more often fatal. http://www.ypa.org/issues/previous/12.html

I have read somewhere (but I can’t find it now) that filters also produce more carbon monoxide, which can lead to heart problems.

Switching to low-nicotine cigarettes after you’re already addicted would seem to be a self-defeating exercise. Smokers of low-nicotine cigs tend to inhale more deeply, or smoke a greater number of cigarettes to get the same amount of nicotine. Nicotine is what gets you hooked, but it’s the tar and carbon monoxide that kills you.

Ashes to Ashes - Richard Kluger