The standard answer from a doctor is simply never have a single cigarette. Never bring your phone to bed, never have unprotected sex, never sit for eight hours at a time. Never is the directive for a lot of things that a lot of people will do more times than never.
This is a new reader-question-and-answer column that focuses on social determinants of health, and how we assess risk and make decisions. Cigarette filters are an interesting place to start because they were created and sold as a mind game. A mind game of death. I’ll start by saying clearly that no amount of inhaled smoke in any form is advisable. But the interesting thing is that smoking filtered cigarettes could actually be worse than smoking unfiltered.
That’s the opposite of the message that a generation of young smokers grew up hearing. Particularly women, to whom “light” and “ultralight” cigarettes were marketed in body-conscious terms. The approach was so successful that Marlboro had to compensate by creating the Marlboro Man, who was a cowboy who likes cigarettes. His primary mission was to convince men that the filter did not change the “man-sized taste of honest tobacco.”
It remains unclear what man-sized taste means, but it really seemed like filters could have made smoking healthier. Consider how filtered cigarettes work.
The thing is not a complex machine. All you have to do to operate is suck on it. That sucking pulls air through little holes in the filter, and that air dilutes the smoke generated by the burning tobacco.