Can Cows — and Cheese — Contribute To Safer Smoking?

We already reported the alarming practice of attempting to make cigarettes safe by using filters made from asbestos. If you are looking for a safer and all-organic way to introduce carcinogens into your body, look no further than your closest dairy farm. Cows — more precisely, the cheese made from their milk — can allow you to light up and simultaneously support the tobacco and cheese industries.

Wisconsin lumberman Stuart Stebbings has a passion for cheese. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he came from a state that is famous for the product, or possibly he just had a natural love for the stuff. Either way, he spent a lot of time thinking about cheese.

Stebbings had a sweet tooth, but he was also diabetic. He thought cheese might be the way to address this dilemma. In the mid-1950s, he invented a type of cheese candy known as “CheeSweet.” He advertised it as “delightfully different.” It was said to be high in protein and low in calories. It was also, sadly, low in sales.

CheeSweet, the cheese alternative to candy.

The disappointing lack of public enthusiasm for CheeSweet did not dampen Stebbings passion for his state’s favorite food. He was toying with the idea of developing a new line of smoked cheese, hoping it would be a bigger hit with the public than CheeSweet. That’s when it occurred to him that cheese had a natural ability to absorb smoke. Why not use this characteristic of his favorite product in a truly practical way?

Stebbings approached Professor Henry Lardy of the University of Wisconsin with the idea of using cheese to filter the most-harmful chemicals out of cigarette smoke. Lardy was intrigued and started his research. (EDITOR’S NOTE: We promise we did NOT make up the name “Lardy” for someone who spends his life studying ways to use cheese. This is just one more of those fortuitous happenstances of history that we love to report.)

After about a year of testing, the cheese-filtered cigarette was born. In 1966, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Stebbings Patent No. 3,234,948 for the cheese filter.

Stebbings quickly took his revolutionary invention to cigarette companies. He explained that in contrast to the best commercially-available cigarette filters of the day that remove only 51-61% of tar, the cheese filter would take out as much as 90%. Using cheese by itself would only remove 40% of the tar, and it would leave the cigarette paper greasy. Charcoal, by itself, removes 18% of tar. When mixed at a 1-to-3 charcoal-to-cheese ratio, the result is staggering.

Although the cheese-filtered cigarette received a patent, it never seemed to garner much interest among tobacco companies or the general public. Professor Lardy said, “Those who fear cancer liked them a lot, but persons who don’t like any filter don’t like these.”

This may shed some light on the issue since those who fear cancer are probably less inclined to be smoking in the first place.

When asked how he liked the cigarettes, Lardy responded, “I don’t smoke.”

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