Product Type: American Spirit in Tobacco
Newest Review: ... and arsenic.” – New South Wales Cancer Council, April 1994 THE CIGARETTES American Spirit cigarettes allegedly burn more s... more
Smoking for the health-conscious?
Natural American Spirit Regular Filter Cigarettes
Member Name: caro
Natural American Spirit Regular Filter Cigarettes
Date: 11/03/01, updated on 11/03/01 (27946 review reads)
Advantages: No additives, whole leaf tobacco, flavour
Disadvantages: Packaging, serious health risks
As the packaging says, American Spirit are American cigarettes made by the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. They are not as widely available as most other brands, although they are increasingly easy to find. But why make the effort?
NO CHEMICAL ADDITIVES
The cigarettes’ main selling point is that they are made from whole leaf tobacco with no chemical additives. The significance of whole leaf tobacco is perhaps less obvious than that of no chemicals: in brief, it means that the cigarettes do not include reconstituted tobacco, scrap tobacco or stems, all of which form a large part of the contents of most other cigarettes. In addition, the tobacco includes Purity Residue Clean (PRC) tobacco. PRC means only certain chemicals, which break down quickly, are allowed in the tobacco’s cultivation. The tobacco is also tested to ensure that it does not contain residues of other chemicals. Not all the tobacco used is PRC, but the proportion is apparently increasing.
Sadly, all of this does not stop the cigarettes being bad for your health. As the company itself says, ‘No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette’! There is even a certain irony in the cigarettes’ concept. Nonetheless, many of us prefer to consume as few unnecessary chemicals as possible, and if we are going to smoke it makes sense to carry this principle over to our choice of cigarettes as much as our choice of food, especially given that there are many hundreds of additives used in cigarette manufacture.
To give some idea of what chemicals are added to other cigarettes, these can include substances which control the burn rate of your cigarette (making it burn more evenly and, incidentally(!), more quickly), flavourings (perhaps compensating for the poor quality of the tobacco itself?), preservatives, and additives controlling the level of nicotine in the cigarette. Some manufacturers have allegedly used chemicals to
cosmetically reduce the visible amount of smoke produced, without altering its harmful properties.
“Among the 700 chemical additives to cigarettes are ammonia, ethyl 2-furoate (which causes liver damage in animals and has been studied as a chemical warfare agent), sclareol (which can cause convulsions), and methoprene (a pesticide used on stored tobacco).” – Newsweek, 18 April 1994
“Among the more than 2000 additives to cigarettes in Europe are methyl coumarin (rat poison), creosote (known carcinogen), naphthalene (active ingredient in mothballs), formaldehyde (enbalming fluid), and arsenic.” – New South Wales Cancer Council, April 1994
American Spirit cigarettes allegedly burn more slowly than regular cigarettes. More importantly, they taste different to other cigarettes. I find their flavour fuller, smoother and richer: it is somehow more satisfying and less harsh than that of other brands I have smoked. (This is more true of the Regular than the Light cigarettes). For me, the flavour of the cigarettes would make them worth buying even without the more natural composition, although as I have explained above, the two are in fact related. A non-smoking friend commented that the cigarettes smell better to her than ordinary cigarettes, too.
Regular American Spirit contain 2.05mg of nicotine and 19.5mg of tar (Lights have 13 mg tar, 1.5 mg nicotine).
American Spirit’s weak point for me is its packaging. First, the distinctive turquoise packs (yellow for Lights) are soft packs. My experience of soft packs is that the cigarettes get more readily bent and crushed in your pocket or bag, that they do not close properly so the cigarettes may get stale more quickly, and that stray bits of tobacco are more likely to leak out. Ironically, hard packs are available in the USA, where soft packs are common, but not in Britain where sof
t packs are otherwise very rare.
Second, as the name suggests, the packaging calls upon images (even stereotypes) of Native Americans. It shows the silhouette of a Native American man wearing a war bonnet and smoking a pipe: these are religious activities, and tobacco itself something used sparingly and with respect. Understandably, many Native Americans feel their culture should not be exploited in this way for the promotion of cigarettes. See http://www.shastalink.k12.ca.us/life/spirit.html for more information.
The company argues that it used this imagery out of respect, and that it supports Native American organisations financially. Nonetheless, its packaging still makes me a little uneasy.
Smoking is a dangerous activity, whatever your brand. However, if you don’t want to add the risks posed by chemical additives to the well-documented risks of smoking itself, Natural American Spirit cigarettes may be an option worth considering. Even if you are not worried about the chemicals, you may well find that you enjoy the flavour of these cigarettes more than that of most other brands.
However, the brand does have its disadvantages. In addition to my comments upon the packaging, I would add that the cigarettes are not widely available. Further, they are more expensive (by approximately fifty pence per packet) than most brands. Above all, like all other cigarettes, American Spirit carry a wide range of health risks.
For local stockists, call 0800 731 1500