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What are Light Cigarettes?

Light cigarettes seem smoother than regular cigarettes to some smokers.
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  • Written By: Kate Lonas
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2014
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Light cigarettes are a product of the tobacco industry’s attempt to market what looked like a safer cigarette back in late 1960s. The difference between light and regular cigarettes lies not in the tobacco each contains, which is identical, but in the filters. Light ones generally have filters covered in white paper rather than the tan or cork-patterned paper of regular cigarettes. This color difference, however, is not a critical one.

The distinction that matters is harder to discern and has to do with ventilation: the paper covering of light cigarette filters has many tiny little holes punched in it. Under laboratory conditions, these perforations cause the proportion of air in each draw on the cigarette to be higher than that in a draw on a regular one. For a person accustomed to regular cigarettes, in fact, these multiple small punctures can make it difficult to draw adequate smoke.

More than 80% of the cigarettes sold in the United States are light cigarettes, also called low-yield cigarettes. People may prefer them to regular, or full-flavored, cigarettes because the diluted smoke they produce seems smoother and less dense, and therefore feels less irritating to the throat. The filters of ultra lights have even more holes than do those of lights and so create even thinner smoke. Most full-flavored cigarette brands have light counterparts, while some cigarettes exist only in light or ultra light versions.

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A preference for light cigarettes may also derive from the notion that they are less harmful than regular cigarettes. The smoke is diluted, and this results in lower lab readings of tar, nicotine, and other components. The measurement of tar in lab tests of ultra lights ranges from 1-6 mg; lights can have anywhere from 6-15 mg of tar; more than 15 mg of tar qualifies a cigarette as regular. Because of the way people actually smoke, however, the lower numbers of lights and ultra lights may not be realized in practice.

The fingers and lips may block the perforations left unimpeded by the smoking machine used in the tests so that the proportion of air to smoke is not as high as it would be under ideal conditions. More significantly, people who smoke will do so until their craving for nicotine is sated, and that could mean smoking more cigarettes to compensate. There are no demonstrable health benefits in smoking light rather than regular cigarettes. For this reason, Canada and the countries of the European Union have banned cigarette manufacturers from labeling their products as "light."

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Discuss this Article

anon946223
Post 7

@Summing: That is because menthol is a lot worse than non-menthol cigarettes. Menthols also make your lungs bleed.

I smoke Marlboro Lights strictly now, but am not a regular smoker anymore. I smoke when I drink, stress, etc. I smoked regularly for nine years previously. I don't know exactly what it means, lips and fingers blocking out the air to smoke ratio when smoking a light cigarette, but I know that I don't take long drags to compensate for a high smoke fulfillment. My drags in are short and sweet. Sure, there are health benefits to anything that is smoked, but lights have less tar and crap in them.

ZsaZsa56
Post 5

It was pretty recently that most cigarette companies switched from using names like light and ultra light to simply calling those cigarettes by a certain color. So Camel Lights became Camel Blues.

I guess the thinking is that "light" is a misleading term that needs to be avoided if people are going to fully understand the consequences of what they are smoking.

profess
Post 4
I know that a lot of people say there is no appreciable difference between light and full flavor cigarettes, especially when it comes to negative health effects, but I have always smoked light cigarettes, and I can barely make it through a full flavor cigarette from the same brand.

They taste and feel so heavy to me. By the time I get to the end of it I am practically panting. Maybe it is all in my head, but I definitely prefer light cigarettes.

summing
Post 3

I am constantly having the debate with my mom over light cigarettes vs regulars. She insists that her Kool light cigarettes are better for her than my Marlboro reds. I know that reds are really bad for you, but I'm pretty sure that Kool Lights are too.

I have smoked her cigarettes before and they taste awful. They do not seem light at all. In fact, they seem even harsher than mine and hers are menthol.

jonrss
Post 2

I smoked these cheap menthol light cigarettes for years. I know that they were not any better for you, but in the place I was living at the time they were cheaper. It was the kind of place where people were not looking to get less of an experience. There was not light beer, or light cigarettes or diet soda. Those things were the cheap stuff because no one wanted to buy them.

Ivan83
Post 1

I smoke light cigarettes and I feel like they really are lighter. Compared to the full flavor version of my brand they are definitely lighter. And compared to the ultra light version, mine are definitely heavier.

I have always heard that there is no such thing as a light cigarette but I only want to smoke lights. Even if it is a false distinction it matters some to me.

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