Buying Cigarettes
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Tobacco blends

The process of blending gives the final product a consistent taste from batches of tobacco grown in different areas of a country that may change in flavor profile from year to year due to different environmental conditions.

Modern cigarettes produced after the 1950s, although composed mainly of shredded tobacco leaf, use a significant quantity of tobacco processing by-products in the blend. Each cigarette's tobacco blend is made mainly from the leaves of flue-cured bright leaf, burley tobacco, and oriental tobacco. These leaves are selected, processed, and aged prior to blending and filling. The processing of bright leaf and burley tobaccos for tobacco leaf "strips" produces several by-products such as leaf stems, tobacco dust, and tobacco leaf pieces ("small laminate"). To improve the economics of producing camel cigarettes, these by-products are processed separately into forms where they can then be possibly added back into the cigarette blend without an apparent or marked change in the cigarette's quality. The most common tobacco by-products include:

Blended leaf (BL) sheet: a thin, dry sheet cast from a paste made with tobacco dust collected from tobacco stemming, finely milled burley-leaf stem, and pectin.

Reconstituted leaf (RL) sheet: a paper-like material made from recycled tobacco fines, tobacco stems and "class tobacco", which consists of tobacco particles less than 30 mesh in size (~0.599 mm) that are collected at any stage of tobacco processing. RL is made by extracting the soluble chemicals in the tobacco by-products, processing the leftover tobacco fibers from the extraction into a paper, and then reapplying the extracted materials in concentrated form onto the paper in a fashion similar to what is done in paper sizing. At this stage ammonium additives are applied to make reconstituted tobacco an effective nicotine delivery system.

Expanded (ES) or improved stems (IS): ES are rolled, flattened, and shredded leaf stems that are expanded by being soaked in water and rapidly heated. Improved stems follow the same process but are simply steamed after shredding. Both products are then dried. These two products look similar in appearance but are different in taste.

Whole tobacco can also be processed into a product called expanded tobacco. The tobacco is "puffed", or expanded, by saturating it with supercritical carbon dioxide and heating the CO2 saturated tobacco to quickly evaporate the CO2. This quick change of physical state by the CO2 causes the tobacco to expand in a similar fashion as polystyrene foam. This is used to produce marlboro light cigarettes ("Lights") by reducing the density of the tobacco and thus maintain the size of a cigarette while reducing the amount of tobacco used in each cigarette.

A recipe-specified combination of bright leaf, burley-leaf and oriental-leaf tobacco will be mixed with humectants such as propylene glycol or glycerol, as well as flavoring products and enhancers such as cocoa solids, licorice, tobacco extracts, and various sugars, which are known collectively as "casings". The leaf tobacco will then be shredded, along with a specified amount of small laminate, expanded tobacco, BL, RL, ES and IS. A perfume-like flavor/fragrance, called the "topping" or "toppings", which is most often formulated by flavor companies, will then be blended into the tobacco mixture to improve the consistency in flavor and taste of the cigarettes associated with a certain brand name. As well, they replace lost flavors due to the repeated wetting and drying used in processing the tobacco. Finally the tobacco mixture will be filled into cigarettes tubes and packaged.

In recent years, the manufacturers' pursuit of maximum profits has led to the practice of using not just the leaves, but also recycled tobacco offal and the plant stem. The stem is first crushed and cut to resemble the leaf before being merged or blended into the cut leaf.

Published: Friday, October 28, 2011

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