Widely recognized by many as the first popular filtered cigarette, Kent was introduced by the Lorillard Tobacco Company after the publication of a series of articles in Reader's Digest in 1952 entitled "Cancer by the Carton", that scared American consumers into seeking out a filter brand at a time when most brands were filterless. (Viceroy cigarettes had been the first to introduce filters, in 1936.) Kent widely touted its "famous micronite filter" and promised consumers the "Greatest health protection in history." Sales of Kent skyrocketed, and it has been estimated that in the first four years that Kent was on the market, Lorillard sold some 13 billion Kent cigarettes.From March 1952 until at least May 1956, however, the Micronite filter in Kent cigarettes contained carcinogenicblue asbestos. It has been suspected that many cases of mesothelioma have been caused specifically by smoking the original Kent cigarettes. Lorillard quietly changed the filter material from asbestos to the more common cellulose acetate in mid 1956. Kent continued to grow up until the late 1960s, then began a long, steady decline as more filtered cigarette brands promising even lower tar (and appealing to smokers' desires for a "safer" smoke) were introduced.
However, Kent continued to stay in the top ten cigarette brand list until 1979. In 1977, Lorillard sold the overseas rights of Kent and all of its other brands and today Kents manufactured outside the U.S. are property of British American Tobacco. On June 15, 2014 Reynolds American offered to buy the Lorillard tobacco company for $27.4 billion and effective June 12, 2015 the Kent brand became the property of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
Between 1970 and 1990 Kent was the most demanded cigarette in Romania and in some parts of the domestic market used as payment or bribe. In the latter part of the interval, Kent was no longer available in regular retail, being sold officially only in hard currency shops. Obviously, black market was thriving, most Kent being smuggled in by those relatively few Romanians who were allowed to travel abroad, sea&air crew, diplomatic staff, etc.