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December 19, 2017

Cigarette Filters That Contained Asbestos Fibers – A Lethal Combination

Given what we know today about the dangers of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking, it is hard to believe that just over 60 year ago, asbestos was used in one of the most toxic ways: cigarette filters, and caused many suspected cases of lung cancer and mesothelioma for decades into the future.

In the 1950s, consumers began to learn of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, so to combat the potential decline in sales, the cigarette filter – first designed in the mid- 1930s – increased in popularity as it was advertised as a “safer” way to enjoy the tobacco product.

By 1952, asbestos cigarette filters were produced for Kent cigarettes and were marketed as the one of the safest types of filters, claiming that 30 percent of tar was able to be filtered through.  These “micronite” filters contained crocidolite asbestos, which is commonly known as “blue asbestos.” Crocidolite is considered to be the most toxic type of asbestos because the fibers are long, incredibly sharp, and very brittle, unlike other forms of asbestos where the fibers are shorter, curled, and a bit softer. The asbestos fibers in the Kent Micronite cigarette filters were friable, so with every puff, these fibers would be released and directly inhaled by the consumer who was unaware that the main ingredient was a carcinogen in itself and doing more harm than good. Decades later, researchers examined Kent Micronite cigarettes from unopened preserved packages and found that an individual smoking a pack a day would ingest 131 million asbestos fibers over the course of a year.

Fortunately the micronite filters were only manufactured until 1956, but at that point billions of Kent Micronite cigarettes were already sold in the United States.

 

Smoking and Asbestos Exposure
Alone, either cigarette smoking or asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer. In combination, asbestos and smoking have a synergistic effect, meaning asbestos and smoking together cause lung cancer at a rate that neither could produce independently. An individual who smokes a pack a day for over 20 years has a 10 fold increased risk of developing lung cancer than a non-smoker.  An individual who smokes a pack a day for 20 years and was exposed to asbestos has a 50 to 90 fold increase of developing lung cancer than a non-smoking, non-asbestos-exposed person.

Many suffering from lung cancer or mesothelioma believe that because they were smokers, their asbestos exposure does not matter. However, that is not the case, and because asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking are a lethal combination, smoking does not prohibit lung cancer or mesothelioma patients from receiving compensation.  At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., we urge those suffering from lung cancer  and mesotheiloma to file a claim as soon as you are made aware of your condition. Contact GPW today to speak to one of our experienced asbestos attorneys by calling (800) 471-3980 or by filling out our online web form.

 

Source:
William E. Longo, Mark W. Rigler, and John Slade, ”Crocidolite Asbestos Fibers in Smoke from Original Kent Cigarettes, American Association for Cancer Research (June 1995). [Link]

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