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History of an Invention: Kent Micronite

A small part of this story can be found in Wikipedia, but there you will probably find only the “conclusion” strongly corrected by the anti-tobacco industry, in the light favorable to them. This story with Kent Micronite filter is cited to this day as “an example of irresponsibility and criminal collusion of tobacco companies”… But in fact, the story was very different.

So, the essence of the accusations brought against Lorillard Tobacco to this day, even after almost 70 years: the use in the Kent cigarette filter of a mineral such as crocidolite, one of the most carcinogenic forms of asbestos. Long exposure to crocidolite particles can lead to mesothelioma, a form of malignancy that is not particularly common. At the moment, almost every anti-tobacco company considers it their duty to report that more than 4,500 lawsuits have already been filed against Lorillard Tobacco to seek compensation for smoking Kent cigarettes. Well, that’s what the “wrestlers” claim, but that’s how this story actually unfolded I’ll tell you today.

So, in March, 1952 Lorillard Tobacco introduced on the market a novelty – Kent cigarettes. The new brand was intended for the middle class white American sector. This phrase now seems a little wild, but the division into “white” and “black” market began to exist as soon as the rights of colored people began to be taken into account in American society. And the main market for Lorillard was African Americans, the main consumers of Newport menthol cigarettes. No one made any special bets on Kent, but Newport accounted for about 90% of all sales.

Kent was launched as an auxiliary brand, it was of a high technological level and was supposed to “calm down” the nervousness of the general public about the “dangers of cigarettes”. Just the day before, the chief physician of the United States loudly announced the “unambiguous” link between smoking and cancer. For the tobacco companies, the acetate filter, invented long ago, became a wild card at that time. The specialists from Lorillard went even further – they introduced cigarettes with the best filter, which no other brand had.

That same filter Micronite was a complex structure of a section of acetate fiber and crepe paper with the inclusion of cotton fibers (not more than three!) saturated crocidolite. That is, the asbestos in the filter was not so much, at least not so much as to kill its consumer. It is strange, but the use of asbestos in the cigarette filter did not occur to anyone except the technologists of Lorillard Tobacco. Because everyone knew about the dangers of the mineral? Not at all! At that time, crocidolite filters were widely used – from air filters in nuclear power plants and medical operating rooms to filters in gas masks in chemical defense units of the Army.

Lorillard launched an extensive advertising campaign for Kent, which explained the advantage of the new filter and… And the competitors did not forgive the success. To this day there is an opinion that the attacks on the Micronite filter were the result of competitors. Fortunately in the tobacco history of the United States there are examples when seemingly wealthy companies went bankrupt just because of rumors.

Statistics of deaths at asbestos mining companies, anyone, was cited as a prime example. Connection about micro doses of asbestos in the filter and that volume of dust that the worker inhales per shift certainly was not given. It is not customary to appeal to logic in such “disputes”. But there was one more thing that happened with the Micronite filter.

It did filter the cigarette smoke very well. So much so that there was almost no taste left in the smoke, because all the tar was deposited inside. And it was because of this point that smokers didn’t take the novelty very well, initially jumping up in sales on the hype of more “healthy” smoking began to plummet. Eventually Kent Micronite was on sale only four years and after all the stock produced was sold, the cigarettes began to be equipped with the usual acetate filter that filters out tar, but not so much that the smoke would lose flavor.

Knowing this history, it becomes clear that the modern hype of anti-tobacco on the Kent Micronite is nothing more than a profanation. And the evidence for this is several historical facts. First, even for the pre-Internet era, four years of production is a lot. Those are millions of copies and if cigarettes were really that dangerous the whole Lorillard would have been trampled into dust back in the first half of the 50’s. Secondly, no lawsuits have been filed against medical or military personnel, although the amount of this type of asbestos in industrial filters was much higher.

And, thirdly, the lawsuits for these nearly 70 years were really about 4500, with only 17 successful ones, when compensation was paid. What does it say? Most of the lawsuits are fake, just some American citizens want to get a freebie on a hype. But the anti-smugglers never mention this, so as not to undermine their own credibility, which is already “white lies”.

For example, Dimitris O. Kouskouris, a Los Angeles resident with mesothelioma, decided to screw Lorillard… During the hearing, his lawyers appealed to the jury, reasoning that “the plaintiff is so sick that he cannot come to the trial himself. But the lawyers of Lorillard Tobacco were more agile and presented video evidence that the plaintiff was not only feeling well, but was also rocking out at expensive restaurants and gambling clubs at the same time. And such cases out of these 4,500 turned out to be the majority, but the anti-tobacco companies prefer not to mention it.

And fourth, if the Kent Micronite story had been as high profile as they are trying to portray it now, would they have left an inscription on the packet already from the 80s that the cigarettes inside have a micronite-like filter?

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