Last modified: June 7, 2021
Asbestos and Kent Micronite Cigarettes
Though a wide variety of consumer products led to harmful asbestos exposure, only one of these products was designed to be placed in a person’s mouth while they inhaled: Kent Micronite cigarette filters.
The filters were made by compressing crocidolite fibers, also known as blue asbestos, within crimped crepe paper. Crocidolite fibers are shorter, thinner and more brittle than the chrysotile asbestos used for most applications.
Because crocidolite fibers are so fine, they were useful for certain specialized industrial filters, but this quality also makes them even more toxic than common chrysotile asbestos fibers. Indeed, many experts consider crocidolite the most hazardous of the six recognized commercial types of asbestos.
The Lorillard Tobacco Company marketed the original Kent Micronite filter as a high-tech safety feature, but today the brand is remembered as one of the most dangerous types of cigarettes ever manufactured.
Asbestos Cigarettes’ Related Diseases
Direct exposure to crocidolite asbestos occurred when smokers inhaled Kent Micronite cigarettes. The asbestos fibers travelled from the filter into smokers’ lungs with every inhale.
Crocidolite asbestos in Kent Micronite cigarettes is known to cause the following diseases:
- Lung cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer, but inhaling asbestos also multiplies a smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer fiftyfold or greater.
The carcinogenic risk of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking is exponentially higher than the risk of each exposure added. This is known as the synergistic effect of asbestos exposure and smoking. The synergistic effect does not increase the risk of developing other asbestos-related cancers, including mesothelioma.
If you believe you were exposed to asbestos by smoking Kent cigarettes, you should see a pulmonologist and tell them about your asbestos exposure history. They will likely recommend annual chest X-rays to look for signs of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma.
By scheduling annual cancer screenings, you might be able to catch asbestos-related cancers early, which improves treatment outcomes. It is important to find a specialist if you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease because treatment is highly specialized, and it takes an expert to tailor treatment to your unique case.
Who Is at Risk from Kent Micronite Cigarettes?
Individuals at risk for asbestos exposure related to cigarette filters include:
- Consumers who smoked Kent cigarettes between 1952 and 1956
- Workers employed at the Lorillard Tobacco Company factories in Jersey City, New Jersey, or Louisville, Kentucky
- Workers employed at Hollingsworth & Vose Company (also called H&V Specialties) in West Groton or Rochdale, Massachusetts
Anyone who smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes between 1952 and 1956 was exposed to crocidolite asbestos. Secondhand smoke from Kent Micronite cigarettes may have exposed family, friends and coworkers to asbestos.
Kent employees who directly manufactured Micronite filters were at a high risk of asbestos exposure. Other employees who worked at Kent manufacturing plants were at risk of exposure to asbestos in the ambient air. According to records revealed in court, more than 34 former Lorillard employees working at the New Jersey and Kentucky factories developed mesothelioma.
Compensation and Asbestos Cigarettes
Lorillard has paid millions of dollars in compensation to settle hundreds of lawsuits filed by former customers and employees who developed asbestos-related diseases because of Kent Micronite filters.
In 2014, Lorillard was acquired by Reynolds American Inc., which owns cigarette brands such as Camel and Newport. Reynolds American is now responsible for all asbestos lawsuits connected to Lorillard’s Kent cigarettes. Since 2014, Lorillard and Reynolds American have paid $42.3 million in settlements to resolve 165 asbestos filter cases. As of 2017, Reynolds American reports its Lorillard division is a defendant in 73 asbestos cigarette filter lawsuits.
- A Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded more than $3.78 million in 2015 to the widow of William Earl Major. She claimed her husband developed lung cancer from smoking Kent Micronite cigarettes. The jury determined that Lorillard’s cigarettes were defectively designed, and that the design was a substantial contributing factor to Major’s death. The ruling was appealed several times and a decision is pending.
- A Florida jury ordered Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose Company to pay $3.53 million in 2013 to plaintiff Richard DeLisle, who claimed he developed mesothelioma as a result of smoking Kent Miconite cigarettes. Lorillard appealed the decision and was granted a review, but the Florida Supreme Court upheld the original ruling in a 2018 decision. The jury awarded a total of $8 million to DeLisle, and other asbestos companies were held responsible for the remaining award.
- Donat Lenney was awarded nearly $1.4 million in a 2011 mesothelioma lawsuit. Lenney smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes from 1953 to 1956, convinced by Lorillard’s advertising it was the safest choice. After his cancer diagnosis in 2009, he underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy and major surgery to remove a lung.
- A San Francisco jury awarded Milton Horowitz $2 million in 1995 to compensate financial losses and the pain and suffering his mesothelioma diagnosis caused. Horowitz smoked Kent cigarettes during the years the toxic filters were produced, and as a result he developed the rare asbestos-related cancer in 1994.
If you were exposed to other asbestos products, you may also qualify to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund in addition to filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you lost a loved one to mesothelioma because they were exposed to asbestos through their occupation or otherwise, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can review your case and provide professional guidance on the claims you may qualify to file.
Other options for compensation include VA claims for veterans, Social Security Disability, workers’ compensation, treatment grants and travel grants.
Kent Cigarettes’ Asbestos Filter History
Factory workers who produced Micronite filters suffered the worst asbestos exposure because they labored in constantly contaminated conditions, often cutting open and handling large burlap bags of raw crocidolite asbestos fibers.
A 1989 study of 33 people who worked in the Hollingsworth & Vose filter factory in 1953 found 28 of them died from asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
In addition, many people who smoked the original Kent Micronite cigarettes experienced health complications later in life as a result of asbestos exposure. Each filter contained about 25% to 30% asbestos, equating to 10 mg of crocidolite fibers.
One study revealed smoking a pack of Kent Micronite cigarettes every day for a year would expose a smoker to 131 million carcinogenic crocidolite fibers. Because the study only analyzed the amount of asbestos inhaled from two puffs per cigarette, however, the actual amount of asbestos inhaled by the average smoker could be far greater.
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