Natural American Spirit cigarettes have become a popular cigarette brand in recent years, known for being marketed as “natural” and additive-free. But what exactly are Natural American Spirits, and how do they compare to other cigarette brands? This article will explore the history, manufacturing, and health claims surrounding Natural American Spirit cigarettes.
History of Natural American Spirit
Natural American Spirit cigarettes were first introduced in 1982 by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, which is based in New Mexico. The company was founded by Bill Drake, a passionate natural foods enthusiast who wanted to create an additive-free, organic cigarette made with 100% US-grown tobacco.
Drake partnered with Native American farmers to obtain organic tobacco and launched the brand in the 1980s amid rising health concerns over conventional cigarette ingredients. The iconic turquoise packaging featured natural imagery and the slogan “100% Additive Free Tobacco.” Within a few years, Natural American Spirit had developed a cult following among smokers who wanted to avoid additives.
In 2002, Reynolds American (RAI) acquired Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and the Natural American Spirit brand. RAI continued to market them as natural and additive-free while expanding distribution nationwide. By the 2010s, Natural American Spirit had become one of the top selling cigarette brands in the United States.
Manufacturing and Ingredients
Natural American Spirit cigarettes are made by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, which is now a subsidiary of Reynolds American. The company claims that the cigarettes contain 100% additive-free, US-grown tobacco without preservatives or flavorings.
According to the official website, Natural American Spirit tobacco is grown by independent American farmers contracted by Santa Fe. The tobacco is organic and undergoes a curing process designed to retain natural flavors. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company states that it uses a special recipe of US-grown cotton cellulose fibers to roll the cigarettes, rather than the typical non-organic reconstituted sheet made from imported fibers.
Natural American Spirit cigarettes are available in several styles including filtered, non-filtered, menthol, and specialty blends. Popular varieties include:
- Natural American Spirit Original Blend (Blue Pack)
- Natural American Spirit Mellow Taste (Yellow Pack)
- Natural American Spirit Full-Bodied Taste (Orange Pack)
- Natural American Spirit Menthol (Green Pack)
- Natural American Spirit Menthol Full Flavor (Dark Green Pack)
Despite “natural” claims, Natural American Spirits cigarettes still contain tobacco and nicotine and are not risk-free. Tobacco control experts also point out that just because the cigarettes lack certain artificial additives does not make them any less addictive or harmful than other cigarette brands when regularly smoked.
Additive-Free and Organic Claims
The main selling point of Natural American Spirits has always been the “100% Additive-Free Tobacco” claim. This means that the cigarettes purportedly do not contain any artificial flavors, preservatives, or chemicals added by the manufacturer.
However, federal law requires Natural American Spirit cigarettes to contain fire safe agents, which assist in preventing accidental fires. These fire safe agents are technically considered an additive, so in 2010 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the wording be changed to read: “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”
The tobacco used in Natural American Spirits is certified organic by the USDA. Organic tobacco technically means that the plants are grown in soil free from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in accordance with organic regulations. However, some studies have found that the curing process has a bigger impact on smoke content versus growing methods.
Many public health experts argue that organic and “natural” claims distract from the real health risks of smoking by implying the cigarettes are less hazardous.
Tar and Nicotine Content
Most cigarettes today are engineered to burn and deliver nicotine rapidly through additives and special paper. Natural American Spirit cigarettes burn more slowly and do not have extra nicotine added. As a result, their tar and nicotine content is generally higher compared to the average commercial cigarette brand:
|Cigarette Brand||Tar (mg)||Nicotine (mg)|
|Natural American Spirit Orange (Full Flavor)||14||1.17|
|Natural American Spirit Yellow (Light)||11||0.95|
|Marlboro Red (Full Flavor)||12||0.8|
|Marlboro Gold (Light)||7||0.6|
Since they burn slower and don’t have extra nicotine added, Natural American Spirits deliver nicotine to smokers less efficiently than conventional cigarettes. However, the higher nicotine content can make them more addictive for some smokers.
Health Risks of Natural American Spirit Cigarettes
While additive-free and organic, Natural American Spirit cigarettes are still fundamentally dangerous tobacco products. They contain the same harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke such as tar, carbon monoxide, and free radicals.
According to the American Lung Association, there is no evidence that organic tobacco or lack of additives makes cigarettes less toxic or addictive. This is because the tobacco itself, when burned, produces harmful carcinogens and toxins – no matter how it is grown.
For example, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not find any significant difference in toxicant exposures for people smoking Natural American Spirit cigarettes versus conventional brand cigarettes like Marlboro and Camel.
Natural American Spirits likely have the same health risks as regular cigarettes when it comes to lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reproductive issues, and other smoking-related diseases. Quitting all tobacco products is the best way to avoid these hazards.
Popularity Among Young Smokers
Part of the rise in popularity of Natural American Spirit cigarettes is attributed to perception and marketing. The exotic imagery and terms like “natural” and “additive-free” on the packs send a message that the cigarettes are purer and less hazardous.
This attracts many younger smokers who often report choosing the brand because they view it as more natural, ethical, or less addictive compared to typical brands. However, research has not found any health advantages of Natural American Spirits for chronic disease and cancer risk.
The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that a large percentage of underage smokers preferred Natural American Spirits, likely related to the brand’s careful marketing toward youth interested in natural products. But they deliver the same addictive nicotine and toxins as other cigarettes that can lead to long-term smoking habits.
There is no evidence that the secondhand smoke emitted from Natural American Spirit cigarettes is any less harmful than smoke from regular cigarette brands. Secondhand smoke refers to the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and smoke lingering from a lit cigarette.
Exposure to secondhand smoke from any combustible tobacco product can have immediate health effects like eye irritation, headaches, lung irritation, and worsened asthma. Long-term, frequent exposure is linked to serious conditions like lung cancer, respiratory infections, reduced lung function, and cardiovascular disease.
Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known carcinogens. Since the smoke is not modified or filtered in any way, Natural American Spirit secondhand smoke contains the same toxicants and cancer-causing agents as conventional cigarette smoke.
One area where Natural American Spirit cigarettes do differ slightly from major commercial brands is fire risk. Cigarettes today are manufactured to burn to the filter more quickly to help prevent accidental fires from smoldering cigarettes left unattended.
Natural American Spirits burn more slowly due to the lack of chemical accelerants used in many popular brands. If not properly extinguished, they may pose a slightly higher fire hazard. However, this difference is minimized by the federally mandated fire safe agents added to Natural American Spirit tobacco.
On average, Natural American Spirit cigarettes cost considerably more than leading brands of commercial cigarettes like Marlboro and Camel. A pack of Natural American Spirits typically costs between $8 to $10, while standard cigarette brands average $6 to $7 per pack.
The higher pricing contributes to perceptions of quality and exclusiveness. But even though pricier, Natural American Spirit cigarettes are not any less harmful or addictive than other discount cigarette brands.
Natural American Spirit promotes its operations as more environmentally friendly compared to other cigarette makers. This is primarily due to practices such as:\
- Sourcing tobacco only from American farmers (reduced transportation emissions).
- Using biofuel and recycled paper at manufacturing facilities.
- Partnering with TerraCycle to recycle cigarette waste collected by individual smokers.
However, tobacco production itself has negative environmental effects regardless of organic methods or reduced shipping. These include deforestation, land degradation, and heavy use of resources like water. Tobacco growing also produces over 2 million tons of solid waste per year in the US alone.
While Natural American Spirit’s operations may be marginally less impactful, tobacco remains an inherently unsustainable crop. The greenest option is to avoid tobacco products altogether.
Natural American Spirit cigarettes are marketed as a natural, additive-free cigarette made with organic tobacco. However, they still pose serious health hazards including cancer, lung disease, and addiction. While lacking certain chemicals added to other brands, Natural American Spirits still contain carcinogenic compounds that form when tobacco is burned.
Claims that the brand is less addictive or dangerous are unproven. Numerous studies find their health risks and toxicity are on par with conventional cigarettes. Quitting smoking remains the best option to avoid the harms of tobacco rather than switching varieties or brands.