The History of Filters

Cigarette filters have a history that dates back more than 75 years when, in 1925, a Hungarian, Mr M. Boris Aivaz, applied for a patent covering the design of a filter tip made either of crepe paper only or a combination of crepe paper with cellulose wadding, and a machine with which to manufacture the filters. Mr Aivaz then approached the Bunzl family, the founders of Filtrona, in Vienna to collaborate on the production of a cigarette filter that was made of a special paper. After a period of development the filter was subsequently promoted to the cigarette industry in 1927.

It is not known for certain as to who were the first to use filters but it is believed that the filter revolution had started in Europe, with filters being used mainly to keep the tobacco out of smoker’s mouths. At this time however, the supply of filtered cigarettes was limited as the machinery used to combine the filter to the tobacco column had yet to be developed. It wasn’t until 1935, when a UK machinery manufacturer introduced a new machine that could produce filtered cigarettes that the scenario began to change. The new technology ensured that filter manufacturing and assembly was seen to be commercially viable and this enabled supply to begin to keep up with the rapidly escalating demand

Although developments in filter materials and machinery continued throughout the 30’s, for most of the decade only a tiny fraction of the cigarettes manufactured included filters.

In 1948 the development of cigarette filters was still ongoing and Filtrona established its primary filter development and manufacturing facility in the north east of England, which to this day remains the mother factory of the Filtrona Group.

As a result of concerns being expressed in the 1950’s and 1960’s regarding the link between smoking and health, there was a surge in demand for filtered cigarettes yielding lower tar levels. Filters were seen not only as a way to reduce tar in cigarette smoke, but it was recognised that by incorporating a filter into a cigarette, whilst maintaining the same stick length, that less tobacco was required. Therefore both lower tar levels and reduced costs were possible as the filters cost less than the tobacco.

To help maintain the quality standards of these mass-marketed filters and filtered cigarettes, Filtrona developed methodologies and equipment to measure circumference, pressure drop and permeability.

The 60’s saw the globalisation of filter manufacturing. The use of filters on cigarettes was becoming the norm and not the exception. As the industry’s ongoing requirement was to reduce tar and for cigarettes to give measurable filtration performance, the first special filter was introduced to meet these needs.

The dual filter, types of which remain available to this day, was developed in the early 60’s and consisted of a combination of a cellulose acetate segment and a Myria paper segment combined together in series. This allowed developers to reduce tar levels at normal filter pressure drops due to the unique design possibilities arising from the different retention properties of the materials.

The development of dual filter technology gave designers the opportunity to incorporate other additives into both dual and triple cigarette filters and it was in the 60’s that the first cigarette using activated carbon in the filter was launched in the U.S.. The popularity of activated carbon grew due to a number of factors in the market at that time.

At the same time as dual filters were being developed in the U.S., new filter technologies were also being introduced into Asia and it was during this period that carbon filters were introduced into Japan and have grown to become the preferred filter choice of Japanese consumers today.

During the ‘60’s Filtrona expanded its filter manufacturing capability in the region, with new manufacturing sites in Thailand and the Philippines.

During the 70’s the tobacco industry saw significant growth in demand for filtered cigarettes and issues such as tar reduction and product differentiation became increasingly important. In the early 70’s dual filters were the preferred filter choice by many leading manufacturers. This preference lasted until the introduction of high-speed filter making machinery offered the cigarette manufacturers the opportunity to set up their own in-house monoacetate filter manufacturing facilities. By the late 70’s monoacetate filters became the preferred filter due to mass production capability. Filter ventilation also became a widely used tool and was used in combination with special filters to give optimized design characteristics.

During the 80’s the penetration of filter cigarettes in the global cigarette market increased very significantly with China’s open-door policy, which allowed for the importation of cigarette filters into China for the first time. The 80’s also saw significant expansion into special filter products in the region as China used dual filters on many brands.

In 1987, Shanghai Cigarette Factory launched the first cigarette using a carbon dual filter in China, while in 1988 Korea launched its ‘88’ brand using a triple granular filter, introducing carbon into the Korean market.

At the end of the eighties certain trends could be identified; Japan and Korea were becoming increasingly dominated with carbon-filtered cigarettes; Philippines and Thailand were having success with menthol products. In Europe, ultra low-tar products with dual filters were being established. These filters offered a high retention performance with reduced ventilation levels compared to the monoacetate equivalents.

During the nineties, the issue of tar-reduction became increasingly important throughout Asia, but also an additional market driver was beginning to emerge. Varying tax rates throughout the region and the premium prices that major brands commanded both influenced an increase in counterfeiting.

Cigarette companies have had to employ various measures to try and secure the legitimacy of their products, but in the new technological world of digital imaging it has proven difficult to come up with a measure that will totally protect products.

Asia itself has fully progressed in terms of using more developed types of filter and although monoacetate remains the dominant filter type, some creative cigarette manufacturers have looked to differentiate cigarettes by adopting more advanced filter constructions. In the region today, the most commonly used special filter is the Active Acetate Dual (AAD). The AAD filter incorporates carbon granules in the acetate segment next to the tobacco column and a cellulose acetate segment at the mouth end. Taiwan has also joined Japan and Korea as a carbon market.

China, Korea, and Thailand have also looked at special filters to reduce tar and have started using the Filtrona CPF filter. China in particular found that CPF could achieve yields below 15mg without the use of tip ventilation and yet retain the same cigarette draw resistance. This is achieved by replacing the mouth end monoacetate segment with a CPF segment. The cross flow filtration of the CPF filter gives higher filter retention than an equivalent monoacetate at the same filter pressure drop. The uniqueness of the grooved appearance of CPF has also assisted in companies combating counterfeiting.

Cigarette filters are here to stay. Current legislations, regulations and market pressures such as reductions in required tar & nicotine and carbon monoxide levels mean that filters need constant ongoing development to keep up with market requirements. As regulations intensify, special filters will play an important role in achieving the specific needs of the tobacco industry.

Over the last five years there has been a significant growth in the use of special filters globally and this trend is set to continue. Filtrona International set up its Technology Centre in the north east of England to concentrate purely on filter research and development. The aim of the filter developers is to introduce innovative products into the marketplace so that the future filter needs of the tobacco industry are being met today.

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