Faux Pas

The Cigarette That Mixed Asbestos With Tobacco for “Health Protection”

Kent Cigarettes Asbestos Mesothelioma

There have been some real head-scratching products hoisted upon an unsuspecting public. Many of these have been documented here at Commonplace Fun Facts, such as radioactive toothpaste, the cure-all medicine that caused a patient’s jaw to fall off, and gladiator blood as a treatment for epilepsy. Just when we think we have seen it all, something comes along to make us realize we have yet to scratch the surface of truly bad ideas.

When you combine the words “health” and “smoking” in the same sentence, one would assume that would be in the context of a discussion about the cessation of the habit. Instead, one company tried a different approach by making its cigarettes “healthy.” This was accomplished with a special filter to weed out the harmful effects of cigarette smoke.

That filter was made out of asbestos.

No, you didn’t misread that last bit. Lorillard Tobacco Company introduced Kent Cigarettes in 1952. Kent Cigarettes were distinguished from competitors by the revolutionary “Micronite” filter. The filters were made from a particularly virulent form of asbestos.

Between March 1952 and May 1956, an estimated 13 billion Kents were sold and smoked. That was nearly 70 years ago, yet the implications of this design continue to be felt today.

Click on image to expand.

Asbestos inhalation has been linked to a rare and deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. In 2013, a Florida jury awarded more than $3.5 million in damages to a former Kent smoker who contracted the disease. While official figures are not public, government filings and other sources reveal, at minimum, several hundred similar lawsuits against the tobacco company. Lorillard’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that it settled 90 cases during a recent period of just over two years and that another 60 are still pending.

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