Why your cigarettes may contain kitty litter

Some tobacco companies are adding an ingredient found in it to their products because the extra weight lets them avoid $1.1 billion in taxes.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 1, 2013 2:48PM

Cat in a litter box (© Vstock LLC/Getty Images)If the idea of inhaling tobacco products isn't bad enough for many consumers, now comes news that some smokers' products include a kitty litter ingredient. 


The reason: by weighing down the products with a clay used in kitty-waste products, the cigarettes are actually classified as heavier "big cigars," reports Bloomberg. With that label, tobacco companies are avoiding a 2,653% jump in a federal excise tax.


The savings to the tobacco companies -- which means less revenue for the U.S. government -- may have totaled as much as $1.1 billion from April 2009 to September 2011, the story notes. 


So what exactly is the kitty litter ingredient? Cheyenne International, a private company that specializes in cigars that look like cigarettes, makes a filter packed with a granular clay substance, which Bloomberg identified as sepiolite.


One of sepiolite's main uses is as a kitty litter ingredient because it has a high liquid absorption rate, according to minerals trade group IMA-Europe. Other uses include waste treatment and as an industrial absorbent. 


While the Treasury Department told Bloomberg the companies aren't doing anything illegal by making their products heavier, the use of a kitty litter ingredient still carries an "ick" factor. 


The main beneficiaries of the loophole may be smaller tobacco companies, according to Bloomberg. Altria (MO), the No. 1 tobacco company, said it didn't change how it formulates its Black & Mild line, while Reynolds American (RAI) doesn't operate in the cigar market, the story notes.


As a result of the new heavier products, a decade-long decline in tobacco usage is slowing, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention singling out the weightier products as spurring usage. 


The CDC blames the tax loophole for creating demand for the heavier product, which it says "resembles a typical cigarette and can cost as little as 7 cents per cigar." By comparison, a pack of cigarettes in New York state cost $12.50 last year, according to the Awl. That means a single cigarette costs more than 62 cents. 


"It shows what length the tobacco companies will go to avoid taxes and regulation that were designed to improve public health without regard to their customers," Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, told Bloomberg. 


Kitty litter might not have a long future in the products, however. In January, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bill that would close the tax loophole.


More on moneyNOW

96Comments
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So the title of "Kitty litter may be in cigarettes" has no truth to it whatsoever....did you know that chewing gum may be made of car tires?
Mar 1, 2013 5:16PM
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how about the dairy industry petitioning the FDA to allow artificial sweeteners be added to milk, so that kids will be more apt to  drink it.  the sweeteners in question are known to cause depression and diabetes...and will not be on the labels as additives...
Mar 1, 2013 5:32PM
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This explains why my cat tries to bury me when I light up
Mar 1, 2013 6:16PM
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Don't portray the Tobacco company being any more evil than any other Capitalistic Company dodging paying their fair share of taxes. That's the new Corporate American way.
Mar 1, 2013 5:08PM
Mar 1, 2013 6:37PM
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I am an ex smoker, so I guess I couldn't say I am completely unbiased about this, but the the fact remains that tobacco is a legal product, and in the big picture, probably doesn't kill as many people overall as two other legal products, alcohol and fast food (or overeating in general).  I think the federal and state governments should just leave people alone that aren't doing anything illegal.  The typical government approach to something like this is not to outlaw it outright, but to tax it to death.  People have free will and personal rights, and this USED TO BE A FREE COUNTRY.  People should just learn to tend to their own affairs and mind their own business, especially if what someone else is doing does not directly affect them.  I personally don't care what anyone else does as long as it does not affect me. 
Mar 1, 2013 5:20PM
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As long as they don't try to put tobacco

in MY kitty's litter product, I don't care.

Maybe kitty litter doesn't cause lung cancer!

Mar 1, 2013 5:39PM
Mar 1, 2013 5:14PM
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It shows what length the tobacco companies will go to avoid taxes and regulation that were designed to improve public health without regard to their customers," Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, told Bloomberg. ****** yeah cause NOOOOO other AMERICAN company would ever do that.....get real
Mar 1, 2013 5:42PM
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Smoke those kitty tootsie rolls with the crunchies on the out side if you have them.  Mmmmmm special flavor...
Mar 1, 2013 5:15PM
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A pack of cigarettes in NY at $12.50?!  We were offered free cigarettes by civilian salesmen in the army at bases in W. Germany in the early 60s.  Five to a pack of Salem, Camel, Lucky Strikes, Marlboro,  or Winston on our morning chow trays..  Add litter to all the chemicals found in tobacco products besides addictive nicotine.   "Police Call" meant one thing to all of us...walk around the barracks and work areas and pick up butts.  Clean out the smelly butt cans and ash trays everywhere.    

Mar 1, 2013 5:12PM
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Hey , my sister dumped some used litter in her stepson's hash pipe. He never new the difference. Cold but, he was an a$$ when he was a teenager. Ewwww........
Mar 1, 2013 5:32PM
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And it's like how back in the 90's people were saying (people I encountered as a teenager) that certain ingredients found in Mtn. Dew were the same as in antifreeze. Big deal! As long as I'm not literally drinking anti-freeze, or anything toxic, or literally smoking used cat litter, I don't care!
Mar 1, 2013 6:41PM
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Another big corporation getting out of paying taxes.
Mar 1, 2013 7:59PM
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The Government doesn't care about your health. They just tax unpopular minorities. If smokers had donated 1 dollar per pack to a lobbying firm a pack of cigarettes would still cost 60 cents. I suggest a 20 dollar a day tax on neck ties, it seems 90% of our problems are caused by the people who wear them.
Mar 1, 2013 6:13PM
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Funny that some of the same people that bemoan the contents of cigarettes and the effects of cigarette smoke are the same people that tell me that pot smoke is "medicine"...
Mar 1, 2013 7:49PM
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HERE'S A HEADLINE

 

AN INGREDIANT FOUND OF URINE IS ALSO FOUND IN TOMATOES, ORANGERS AND GRAPES

JUST TO NAME A FEW FOODS.

 

EMAIL BLOOMBERG FOR THE ANSWER

Mar 1, 2013 5:40PM
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I wonder if they put used kitty litter in their cigs.
Mar 1, 2013 5:32PM
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...And this kind of crap is EXACTLY what prompted me to QUIT SMOKING!
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