Filter Tip


Denotative Meanings

Placed at one end of the cigarette, the filter tip’s denotative function is to allow the smoker to draw more fresh air with each inhalation and to allow some of the smoke to escape out of the filter before it gets inhaled. 1 The inner filter material (typically 95% cellulose acetate) is wrapped in either matte or pearlescent tipping paper, which is typically printed with identifying text/imagery, stripes in the brand color, etc. Some filter tips also have a number of perforated rings, whose denotative function is to allow the smoker to draw more fresh air with each inhalation.

Filter tips are often adorned with text (brand family name and/or the brand descriptor). typography, colour(s), logos, monograms, coats of arms, and hot foil stamping are also important visual features of the filter tip. As well, its length influences the overall cigarette size.


Printing visual and textual design elements on the filter tip enables meanings conveyed by the pack to be carried over to the cigarettes, themselves.

Moreover, since health warnings are not mandated on the cigarette itself, tipping designs enable companies to increase the promotional landscape and creatively highlight the product’s qualities and characteristics without the interference of distracting health warning text and images.

“The objective of these packaging/tipping modifications is to enhance the overall quality perceptions of the product and reinforce WINSTON’s product and image perceptions as “America’s Best.” 2


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle  Glamour / Luxury Connotations of luxury are reinforced by what is printed on the filter paper.

Luxury can be conveyed by the tipping paper itself, specifically its colour (cork-colour or white) and its finish (matte or pearlescent).

  • A 1993 Rothmans, Benson & Hedges qualitative research report found that pearlescent white filter tips were best targeted to “Yuppies and nouveau riche.” 3

    Yuppies / nouveau riche –> Wealth –> Luxury

Graphical bands can convey luxury

  • Ring shape that is often printed in metallic ink –> Ring, precious metals –> Wealth

Luxury can be conveyed by innovation, such as the raised dot pattern on Belmont Touch filter tips. This design may create stylish visual appeal, and its texture may offer a stimulating physical experience.

Lifestyle  Gender Connotations of gender can be reinforced by what is printed on the filter tips. For example:

  • Export ‘A’
    Export A tips
    Deep/solid colours –> Predominantly masculine 4Bold typography –> Predominantly masculine’Export’ –> International trade –> Predominantly masculine
  • VogueVogue filter tip
    Pastel/light/red-based colours –> Predominantly feminineScript typography –> Predominantly feminineBrand family name suggestive of fashion –> Predominantly feminine 5Brand descriptor suggestive of flowers –> Predominantly feminineCircle logo suggestive of an egg/fertility (as discussed in further detail under logo) –> Predominantly feminine

Connotations of gender can be reinforced by the overall colour and finish of the filter tipping paper. For example:

  • White –> Clean, pure, innocent –> Feminine
    • White filter tips are common among female-oriented brands, 6 and research indicates that females are more “interested in retaining or switching to a white filter.” 7
  • Pearlescent –> Feminine 8
    • The female-oriented Vogue family and B&H Superslims use glossy white filter tips that match the glossy finishes of their packaging. In contrast, brands with a more masculine appeal tend to have both matte-white and cork-coloured filter tips.
Healthfulness Strength Cork -> Wood -> Outdoors, 9 ruggedness, manliness –> Greater strengthWhite -> Clean, pure, pristine, innocent, lightweight 10 –> Healthier, reduced strengthVentilation –> Ability to breathe easier –> Healthier



  1. Merriam-Webster. Filter Tip. Available at: Accessed July 21, 2011.
  2. RJR. Improved Packaging/Tipping Design Proposal. Available at: Accessed December 13, 2011.
  3. Saatchi & Saatchi for Rothmans Benson & Hedges. Development of new product ideas for Project 20. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. San Francisco, CA: University of California; 1993. Available at: Accessed July 21, 2011.
  4. Sylvestre Marketing for RBH. Belvedere Rock Research Report, prepared by Sylvestre Marketing. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2012.
  5. Brown & Williamson. Perception Research. 1996. Available at: Accessed December 8, 2011.
  6. Gilbert E. Performing femininity: Young women’s gendered practice of smoking. Journal of Gender Studies 2007;16(2):121-137.
  7. RBH. Project Apollo, A Qualitative Study of Opportunities in the YAM (young adult market) Segment for RBH. Available at: Accessed July 25, 2011.
  8. Philip Morris. Literature Review: Colour. 1992. Accessed December 13, 2011.
  9. Eiseman L. Colour: Messages and meanings, A Pantone colour resource. Gloucester, MA: Hand Books Press, 2006.
  10. Ibid.