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Anatomy of a Cigarette
by Lexi Krock

Humans have indulged in tobacco for hundreds if not thousands of years, yet cigarette smoking is a relatively new preoccupation. Before 1881, the year the cigarette-rolling machine was invented, most people consumed tobacco by chewing it, smoking it in a pipe, or snorting it as snuff, though some smokers hand-rolled their own cigarettes. The rolling machine allowed for the mass production of cigarettes and helped establish the new, state-of-the-art cigarette as the most common and popular vehicle for tobacco consumption.

At first glance, this vehicle may look simple—a tube of paper with tobacco in it. But each of a cigarette's myriad elements has been carefully engineered for a specific purpose. In this feature, take a closer look at a typical cigarette and compare its conventional form with two recent attempts to create a "safer" cigarette. (For more information on these new high-tech designs, see "Safer" Cigarettes: A History).

Lexi Krock is editorial assistant of NOVA Online.

Further reading
"The Changing Cigarette," by Dietrich Hoffmann and Ilse Hoffmann. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 50: 307-364, 1997.

"Cigarette Engineering," Action on Smoking and Health,

The Worldwide Smoking Epidemic: Tobacco Trade, Cigarette Manufacturing, and Use. William C. Scott et al. in Journal of the American Medical Association, 263: 3312-3318, June 27, 1990.

To Print

Anatomy of a Cigarette | "Safer" Cigarettes: A History | The Dope on Nicotine | On Fire
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