Unfiltered Smokes: Why so expensive?
August 7, 2005 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Why do unfiltered cigarettes cost so much more than unfiltered ones?

I smoke unfiltered Pall Malls, and have for years. I've never understood, though, why with any cigarette that's available filtered or unfiltered (Camel, Lucky Strikes, and Pall Malls are the commonly available ones), the unfiltered version is significantly more expensive, sometimes by a couple of dollars. You'd think that not having to add a filter would make the cigarette cheaper, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Why is this?

(And please, no HURF DURF TOBACCO EATER comments.)
posted by Captain_Tenille to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total)
I always assumed it was because of three things. Less people smoke unfiltered so it costs more to produce. They have more tobacco than filtered and tobacco costs more than the filter. And more tobacco means higher tax rate.
But what do I know, I don't smoke.
posted by FreezBoy at 3:10 PM on August 7, 2005

Here in Ottawa, Canada, they cost the same.
posted by Jairus at 3:21 PM on August 7, 2005

In the UK it is visa versa since unfiltered rolling tobacco is taxed at a lower rate. Maybe cause the unfilter ones have more tobacco in them.
posted by laukf at 3:23 PM on August 7, 2005

Actually, I don't think they have a much higher content of tobacco per se; just less nicotine is filtered out when you smoke them. I haven't found any conclusive results that they're taxed higher in America (just by Google, I'm no expert), although some countries do impose higher taxes on the filterless cigarettes.

I think this may be mostly related to supply and demand. I suspect FreezBoy is right that fewer people smoke unfiltered cigs; also, because they deliver so much nicotine, those that do tend not to require as many a day.
posted by solotoro at 3:24 PM on August 7, 2005

I smoke Bali Shag, Drum, and other similar Halfzware Shag hand-rolling tobacco. It is significantly cheaper than tailor-mades, and significantly to exponentially better tobacco. (Unless your choice of tailor-mades is Nat Shermans or the like.)

How much cheaper? Here a pack of Camels or Marlboros runs about $4.50-5.00 USD, for twenty smokes. A pack of Bali Shag costs about $3.00-3.50 USD and makes 40-50 smokes.

Take apart a Marlboro or Camel and roll the tobacco between your fingers. It turns to powder, because it's dry and is often blended with reconstituted sheet tobacco. (Think fake crab for smokes.)

Now take a pinch of fresh Bali Shag and roll it. It's moist, and flexible, and quite obviously comprised of very thinly sliced and properly cured tobacco leaves.

So why are pre-made filterless smokes usually more expensive than filtereds? I'd like to say for Camel straights it's because they use slightly better tobacco and a little more of it. But I can't confirm that at all, and it probably isn't very likely. Plus, the demand is less, so store owners probably have to charge more to keep it in stock.

If you already like filterless smokes, try rolling. It's insanely cheaper. You learn a neat party trick. And you can even tailor your smokes for how strong you want them. Plus they taste a million times better.
posted by loquacious at 4:28 PM on August 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree with loquacious. When i smoked i, smoked Drum. The tobacco is infinetely better than any of the mass market filterless (Camels, Pall Mall) and much better than most of the expensive imported european cigarettes.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:37 PM on August 7, 2005

GF has just pointed out: "Why do unfiltered cigarettes cost so much more than unfiltered ones?"

Do a wordcount on "unfiltered". It totally slipped past me, I don't know about you. :)
posted by loquacious at 4:56 PM on August 7, 2005

D'oh! Thanks for pointing that out, loquacious.

Also, I'm aware of rollies; at one point when I was totally broke-ass poor, I rolled either Bugler or Top tobacco. As I'm sure you're aware, both of those are pretty nasty ass shit.

On top of that, I smoke about a pack and a half of Pall Malls a day. That's a lot of hand rolling -- the fingers get tired eventually. It's worth thinking about, though: I have to pay anywhere between $6.06 (absolute cheapest) to $7.10 a pack. The cigarette taxes are about the only thing I don't like about living in Washington.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 5:09 PM on August 7, 2005

Back when I smoked Camel nonfilters, the base price was the same, but they never went on sale, and weren't included in promotions (e.g., Camel Cash--do they still do that?).

The American Spirit nonfilters I smoke these days cost the same as the filtered versions (or they do everywhere I've every bought 'em, anyway).
posted by box at 5:23 PM on August 7, 2005

Pure economics. There's little market competition, and limited demand. It's a seller's market. I suspect that straights are slightly less dependent upon filler and sheet than filters, but the price basically reflects what devoted coffin-nail smokers are prepared to pay for them.
posted by holgate at 5:40 PM on August 7, 2005

Buy the filtered version and then snap off the filters prior to smoking.
posted by caddis at 5:47 PM on August 7, 2005

Making your own doesn't necessarily mean hand rolling; you can pick up a machine for $20 - $40 that will inject tobacco of your choice into pre-made tubes. (filtered or non-your choice) - the results look pretty much indistinguishable from store-boughts.

Making your own (aka "stuffing your own" as opposed to "rolling"), even smoking the highest quality tobacco and tubes you can buy, the cost is around $10 - $11 per 200 cigarettes (a carton), buying supplies online.

I started doing this awhile back; it's not only about 1/3 the price per cig of what I was smoking before, once I settled on the tobacco I liked most, it's a much more enjoyable smoke (my more cynical side would suggest that the reason your non-filters are more expensive is that they have to put more real tobacco and less crud into the cigarette since you can taste it better.)

Besides, I kind of like having to work a little harder for my vices (I roast my own coffee, too); it makes me more aware of what I'm smoking and I smoke a lot fewer "automatically" (and thus a lot fewer in total.)

It takes me about an hour to make a carton's worth of cigarettes; I do it while watching TV when I was just going to be sitting around anyway.

Googling "Premier Supermatic" will find you some sites that sell the equipment and supplies.
posted by nonliteral at 5:54 PM on August 7, 2005

Doesn't relate to the question but if you like a lot of flavor in your cigarette you should try the black tea of tobacco.
posted by 517 at 6:58 PM on August 7, 2005

Camel Wides are just as long overall as regular Camels, have a shorter filter, and are about 1.5 times as thick. Definately more tobacco per cigarette. Still cheaper than regular Camels, despite the filter.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:19 PM on August 7, 2005

Cigarette companies charge a base price (for example where I work at they are 5.75) but then they give a coupon or "buydown" straight to the retailer that lowers the price, so we end up charging 5.10 for a pack. My guess would be that the straights don't sell enough for the companies to give the buydown coupon. Though kamel reds don't have the buydown either. My experience has been that there's no real logic behind cigarettes other than they'll gut you for all you've got.
posted by psychobum at 10:02 PM on August 7, 2005

I'm going to lend my support to the theory that it's simply economics. Most people, having been convinced that filters somehow make the cigarette safer, don't want to purchase unfiltered fags. What's more, the vast majority of smokers I know are entirely too prissy to want to deal with such unpleasant necessities as the Unfiltered Smoker's Tobacco Fragment Purging Pseudo-Spit (you know, when you get a little shred of tobacco in your mouth, and you sort of "ftph" it out.)

As a result, there's little demand... thus, they charge more. They're already a fairly unethical business, and so I can't imagine them giving a flying fuck about passing on the non-filter manufacturing savings on to the consumer.

I also suggest that you look into rolling your own cigarettes. I generally smoke Drum, which, all things considered isn't spectacular. However, compared to the nasty-ass crap that the tobacco companies have decided they should pack into storebought cigarettes, it's like smoking manna from Heaven.

It should be noted that Bugle and Top are absofuckinglutely, entirely, and completely disgusting, and do not represent even the midrange tobaccos (Drum, Balishag, Samson). Seriously, I'd much rather deal with withdrawal than smoke either of those brands--they make me physically ill. I've found that in Europe (where far more people roll their own cigarettes), there're lots and lots of brands of really tasty tobaccos.

Perhaps the internet provides channels for getting them?
posted by Netzapper at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2005

Well you wouldn't dare post a 'wisecrack' here. I thought my original comment was totally appropriate however.
posted by sjvilla79 at 2:37 PM on August 8, 2005

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