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Cigar 101

What Are Filtered Cigars?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Filtered cigars are cheap machine-made cigars that usually come in 5, 10, or 20-count packs. Many filtered cigars are flavored but not all. You can buy filtered cigars at convenience stores and gas stations in addition to tobacco shops. Filtered cigars are closer to cigarettes than they are to premium handmade cigars in every way except for their name. Premium cigar-makers and retailers frown upon filtered cigars because they are not made by hand nor with high-quality tobaccos. Common brands of filtered cigars include Captain Black, King Edward, and Cheyenne.

What’s the Difference Between Filtered Cigars and Cigarettes?

This biggest difference between filtered cigars and cigarettes is that filtered cigars are finished with an outer leaf of tobacco, whereas cigarettes are processed with a paper wrapping. The second big distinction between filtered cigars and cigarettes is that filtered cigars should not be inhaled. Overall, cigar-makers never advocate inhaling tobacco smoke in any circumstance. That’s why you’ll never find a filter on the end of a traditional handmade premium cigar – a filter creates a false impression that it’s okay to inhale. Filtered cigars are becoming increasingly restricted online in much the same way as cigarettes due to FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulation and state and municipal taxes.

Why Do Some Cigars Have Filters?

Like cigarette filters, cigar filters are made from cellulose acetate – a type of plastic that takes as long as a decade to decompose. The filter is designed to remove toxins from the smoke. Because big tobacco companies in the 1950s propagated the notion that filters make smoking safer, smokers continue to believe a filter protects them in some way. The big cigarette companies developed filters in response to certain lung cancers but, over time, reduced the effectiveness of their filters to preserve the addictive effects of nicotine in their products. Filters are essentially a marketing ploy.

A movement has been underway to ban filters, or at least the materials they’re made from, because they are one of the most littered items in the world, and, like plastic straws and bags, they are harmful to the environment.

Makers of premium handmade cigars, and most consumers of premium handmade cigars, do not smoke filtered cigars and view them with disdain. The tobaccos found in premium cigars are whole-leaf, long-filler tobaccos that have been cultivated, fermented, and aged for years to achieve optimal taste. Filtered cigars are made from cheap homogenized tobaccos and are mass-produced to deliver nicotine not unlike cigarettes, even though you don’t inhale them. If premium handcrafted cigars are considered lobster, calling filtered cigars sardines is paying them a compliment.

Another reason some cigars have filters is FDA regulation. In an ever-increasing effort to restrict and/or outlaw the sale of all flavored tobacco products – especially flavored cigarettes – some manufacturers simply replaced the exterior paper used on their cigarettes with a tobacco leaf so that the product(s) could be reclassified as cigars. A notable example is the Djarum brand, once one of the biggest manufacturers of clove cigarettes. When clove cigarettes were banned by the FDA because of their flavoring, the company switched from making them with a paper wrapping to a tobacco wrapping so they could continue to be sold as “cigars.” Clearly, a Djarum clove “cigar” has little in common with any traditional premium cigar that is made by hand.

Can You Inhale Filtered Cigars?

No, you cannot inhale filtered cigars. No cigars should be inhaled. Even cheap crappy cigars with a filter are not designed to be inhaled while you’re smoking. Of course, many consumers of filtered cigars assume otherwise. Filtered cigars – and most cheap machine-made cigars – present a conundrum when it comes to considering the definition of a cigar. Premium cigar-makers would strongly prefer any product with a filter not be classified as a cigar in any way, but current FDA definitions do not make that distinction.

Why Are Filtered Cigars So Cheap?

Filtered cigars are cheap because they are mass produced like cigarettes. They are made from low-quality homogenized tobaccos in factories that churn them out like potato chips on a conveyor belt. Many filtered cigars are flavored to mask the actual taste of the tobaccos used to make them. When you smoke a filtered flavored cigar, you’re tasting the artificial oils and additives sprayed into the tobacco. The tobacco is essentially an agent for combustion and nicotine delivery. 

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