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Australian smokers’ experiences and perceptions of recessed and firm filter cigarettes
  1. Melanie A Wakefield1,
  2. Kimberley Dunstone1,
  3. Emily Brennan1,
  4. Amanda Vittiglia1,
  5. Michelle Scollo1,
  6. Sarah J Durkin1,
  7. Janet Hoek2,
  8. James Thrasher3,
  9. Dorothy Hatsukami4,
  10. Neal Benowitz5,
  11. Jonathan M Samet6
  1. 1 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  3. 3 University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  4. 4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  5. 5 School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  6. 6 Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Melanie A Wakefield, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia; melanie.wakefield{at}


Background While cigarette filter modifications have long been used to increase product appeal and assuage health concerns, tighter marketing restrictions, including plain packaging, have further spurred the growth of filter variants. We explored and assessed experiences and perceptions of smokers who had tried and/or currently use recessed filter cigarettes (RFCs) and firm filter cigarettes (FFCs).

Method In November 2018, we undertook eight exploratory focus groups of Australian adult factory-made cigarette smokers (total n=56). In July 2019, we surveyed 999 smokers aged 18–69 years to quantify ever and current use of these products and associated beliefs and sensory experiences.

Results Focus group and survey findings were consistent. Among 988 smokers who had at least tried factory-made cigarettes, 28.9% had tried FFCs and 11.1% currently smoked these, while 36.4% had tried RFCs and 7.5% currently smoked these. Smokers in both studies believed these filters may reduce harm and that FFCs increase appeal. In the survey, 58.9% of RFC triers agreed these hide the filter’s brown stain and 48.9% agreed that RFCs keep harmful substances away from the mouth. Similarly, 58.4% of FFC triers agreed these trap more harmful substances than standard filters. Relative to standard filter cigarettes, more smokers experienced FFCs and RFCs as feeling clean (p=0.03) and more current FFC users experienced these as feeling smooth (p=0.01).

Conclusion RFCs and FFCs undermine plain packaging legislation, which aims to reduce appeal and minimise misperceptions about the relative harms of different tobacco products. Like other filter modifications, these filter variants should be disallowed.

  • tobacco industry
  • packaging and labelling
  • advertising and promotion
  • public policy
  • prevention

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Please contact the corresponding author.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Please contact the corresponding author.

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  • Contributors MAW, EB and KD led the study design and MAW drafted the manuscript. KD conducted statistical analysis. All authors provided critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final version for publication.

  • Funding This study was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council.

  • Competing interests Outside the submitted work, NB reports personal fees from Pfizer and Achieve Life Sciences as a consultant, and from Tobacco litigation as an expert witness against tobacco companies. MAW, KD, EB, AV, MS and SJD report that they are employed by a non-profit organisation that conducts public health interventions, research and advocacy aimed at reducing the harms of tobacco in the community, especially those pertaining to cancer. JH, JT, DH and JMS have nothing to disclose.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.