cigar and cigarette, tubular rolls of tobacco designed for smoking. Cigars consist of filler leaves held together by binder leaves and covered with a wrapper leaf, which is rolled spirally around the binder. Cigarettes consist of finely shredded tobacco enclosed in a paper wrapper, and they often have a filter tip at the end. They are usually shorter and narrower than cigars. In pre-Columbian times, indigenous peoples of the West Indies and of parts of Central and South America smoked tobacco and other plant products in a similar form. Spanish travelers to the Americas introduced the cigar to Spain by the late 1500s, whence it spread to other European countries. Most cigars have been made by machine since about 1902; cigarettes, since the last quarter of the 19th cent. The cigarette industry increased phenomenally in the 20th cent., especially after World War I. The composition of cigarettes in the United States has changed. Imported Turkish tobacco was favored at one time, but American tobacco is more popular today.
Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, aldehydes, and a number of organic tar compounds. The use of filter-tipped cigarettes increased in the United States after medical reports in the early 1950s suggested a link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking. In 1964, Luther Terry, the U.S. surgeon general, issued a report that condemned cigarettes as causing cancer and several respiratory diseases. During the 1980s, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reiterated and underscored these admonitions. Such efforts resulted in antismoking campaigns, a ban on television advertising, and warning labels on packages. As a countermeasure, the tobacco industry increased their advertising budgets 400% between 1967 and 1984. Tobacco production in the United States increased steadily until 1981, after which the industry began a downward turn. The consumption of cigarettes reached its peak between 1974 and 1977.
Recognizing that the smoking of tobacco is addictive, pharmaceutical companies have developed chewing gum and transdermal skin patches that introduce nicotine into the body while the person tries to "kick the habit" and refrain from smoking. Scientific studies suggest that smoking can cause complications in pregnancy, and that "passive smoking," the inhalation of smoke from others' cigars or cigarettes, has effects similar to smoking. Vigorous antismoking campaigning has been accompanied by a number of successful efforts to ban smoking in public places. More than two thirds of the U.S. states now have laws prohibiting smoking in some public places.
Cigarette manufacturers in the United States were faced with serious legal and financial threats in the mid- and late 1990s as a result of health-related lawsuits brought by U.S. states and by individuals, and also were confronted with further attempts at government regulation. Disputes with the states were settled in 1998 when the industry agreed to pay 46 states $206 billion over 25 years (four states had earlier been paid a total of $40 billion to resolve their separate lawsuits), but individuals continued to seek damages for illnesses that they maintained were caused by smoking cigarettes. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which an international treaty that came into affect in 2005, seeks to reduce the number of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths by such measures as banning tobacco product advertising and putting warning labels on tobacco packaging. In 2009 the U.S. Congress passed legislation that allows the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarettes and other forms of tobacco; the law also imposed additional restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products.
See G. Doron, The Smoking Paradox: Public Regulation in the Cigarette Industry (1979, repr. 1984); R. Kluger, Ashes to Ashes (1996); R. Parker-Pope, Cigarettes: Anatomy of an Industry from Seed to Smoke (2001); A. M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century (2007).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.