Asbestos in Cigarette Filters

From 1952 to early 1957, 12 billion Kent cigarettes were sold with filters containing crocidolite asbestos These trademarked Micronite filters were marketed as offering “the greatest health protection in the history of cigarettes” when, in fact, pack-a-day users were estimated to have been inhaling 131 million asbestos fibers each year.

Since the first signs of asbestos-related illnesses may not begin to appear until 35 to 40 years after exposure, many thousands of smokers and former smokers could be suffering from the symptoms, unaware of the cause. Indeed, some have died without knowing how or where the asbestos exposure occurred.

Crocidolite asbestos is known to be the most nefarious of the asbestos varieties, resulting in high rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses among those who inhaled the particles. Even non-smoking factory workers who handled the cigarette filters during the manufacturing process experienced a threefold increase in deaths from lung-related illnesses over what would otherwise be expected.

The P. Lorillard Company, producer of Kent cigarettes, ran tests in 1954 using electron microscopy to determine if the Micronite filters were releasing asbestos fibers into the lungs of consumers. The results of those tests showed conclusively that smokers were being exposed and that their lives were endangered by such exposure.

However, the company ignored its own findings, continuing to produce another 4 billion cigarettes over the next of 18 months before ceasing production in 1957. Lorillard also kept the test findings a closely guarded secret, never advising their customers of the damage that had likely occurred.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs and abdomen that is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos fibers. A single asbestos exposure puts a person at risk for asbestos-related illnesses and that risk is dramatically increased by exposure to cigarette smoke. One can imagine the monumental impact of repeated exposure to crocidolite asbestos fibers carrying tar and nicotine into smokers’ lungs and abdomens.

Smokers may have little to no recourse against cigarette manufacturers for lung cancer due to inhalation of burning tobacco smoke, but attorneys are currently pursuing and winning settlements for damage caused by asbestos exposure. Anyone with lung cancer, mesothelioma, or another asbestos-related illness who might have smoked Kent cigarettes with Micronite filters between 1952 and 1957 should immediately contact an experienced attorney.