Nicotine and Balsa Filters


Commenter P. Stephenson wonders if Savinelli’s balsa filters reduce the nicotine hit from tobacco by absorbing moisture. This is a good question, so I set out to see if that’s true. Some while back I used carbon filters in the hope that they would diminish the nicotine hit that some tobaccos give me. I can’t say they did. I don’t recall if I tried balsa filters in that regard, and I hoped to learn something about this in my latest experimentation.

After a week of testing, I can say one thing for certain: I’m just not sure. I smoked three blends that, under some circumstances, can give me quite a wallop: C&D Big ‘N’ Burley, C&D Mad Fiddler Flake, and GL Pease Embarcadero. I mean these guys can make my head spin and my legs wobble.

So what happened when I smoked them in my Savinellis with balsa filters? One thing I can say is that the nicotine hit did not disappear altogether. The question is whether it was reduced at all. And here I am not sure. It may have done, but I must bear in mind that, for me at least, the nicotine hit from a blend seems heavily dependent on factors other than the tobacco itself. Time of day, state of rest, and fullness stomach seem to have a lot to do with it. Thus even if I’m right and did indeed experience a lesser hit, I have no way of knowing if the filter was the reason.

I’ll keep experimenting, but I fear that no matter how long I do, I won’t be able to overcome the epistemological problem. After all, if on a given occasion I find the hit less severe, I will never know what it would have been had I smoked without a filter.

Here is another thing I can say with certainty, the filter makes the draw less easy than I prefer.

3 thoughts on “Nicotine and Balsa Filters

  1. Looks like lab tests are needed rather than the subjective experience of the user. I have no confidence my own impressions! The info that got me curious is from :

    “According to tests by the EURATOM Research Center of Ispra, Italy, the filter has the ability to absorb up to 77% of the nicotine and 91% of the tar contained in the pipe tobacco…”

    (That “up to” qualifier pretty much ruins the results by allowing anything between 0% and 77%).


    1. Yet isn’t it the subjective experience that counts? Who cares what lab tests show if I still get a spinning noggin and queasy stomach? It all depends on why you’d want to reduce the nicotine. I don’t object to it per se. I just don’t want the subjective effects.


      1. Good point. I have to think about that. While reduced nicotine should necessarily reduce the symptoms, who can say what amount of reduction would please the user? So I have to agree that the subjective test is the thing.


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