Skip to Content

What Do the Different Colors of Cigarettes Mean?

Different colors are employed for cigarette packages. But there are a lot of brands and a lot of types of cigarettes, so is there any correlation between them? What do the different colors of cigarettes mean?

The different colors of cigarette packages are meant to delineate the differences in a company’s product lines such as lite, menthol, mellow, full-bodied, etc.

Like most manufacturers, they have several products with slightly varying consistencies. But some smokers disagree: They believe these colors are merely a clever replacement for some banned descriptors.

But, there’s a lot more to know.

In this article, we’ll find out why cigarettes are colored the way they are and what are the different cigarette colors. Then, we will find out the color of the strongest cigarette and that of the lightest. But we will also find out if these colors are mandated by law.

Let’s dive right in.

diff cigarettes' colors lg

Why are cigarettes colored the way they are?

Cigarettes are colored the way they are to signal some qualitative difference to buyers. Cigarette manufacturers adopted its effective color-coding after they were banned from using word descriptors such as ‘light,’ ‘mild,’ and ‘low’ on cigarette packages.

Before colored packaging was employed, some cigarettes were advertised as “light”, “mild”, or “low” to distinguish them from “regular” cigarettes. These terms were meant to indicate that these products contain lower levels of tar, nicotine, and chemical additives.

But the FDA banned the use of these terms because it believes that they subtly mislead the public into thinking that cigarettes labeled or advertised in this manner cause fewer health issues. They are convinced that they still pose serious health risks.

Cigarette manufacturers did comply with the letter of the ban. They stopped using these descriptors in their labels and advertising. Whether they complied with its spirit is debatable.

Now, let’s check out something interesting about one of the most popular brands. A lot of cigarettes burn fast.

But American Spirits does not. Do you know why?

Check out a recent article I published. I explained whether tobacco additives make them burn faster and what makes American Spirits different. I get into whether they contain additives and what additives are in them. And I revealed whether slow-burning cigarettes are bad for you.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What are the different cigarette colors?

The colors employed vary slightly depending on the manufacturer. Silver, gold, and blue are used to indicate milder products. Green is used to show menthol cigarettes, while red is used for traditional cigarettes.

Let’s look at two examples: Malboro and American Spirits.

Malboro employs three primary colors: Red, Gold, and Black. Red “Flavor” represents its classic offering. It exemplifies its brand promise: “come to where the flavor is.” Gold stands for Malboro Lights, while Silver is the color for Ultra-Light.

Flavor line:

  • Marlboro Red
  • Marlboro Core Flavor
  • Marlboro Flavor Mix
  • Marlboro Filter/Flavor Plus
  • Marlboro Beyond

Gold line:

  • Marlboro Gold Original
  • Marlboro Gold Touch
  • Marlboro Gold Edge
  • Marlboro Gold Advance
  • Marlboro Gold Beyond

Fresh line:

  • Marlboro White Menthol
  • Marlboro Black Menthol
  • Marlboro Fresh
  • Marlboro Ice Blast
  • Marlboro Blue Ice

Now, let’s check out American Spirits.

American Spirits employ 8 different colors, indicating slightly varying compositions of Nicotine, Tar, and CO, as shown in the below list:

  • Yellow – Mellow Original Flavor
  • Blue – Full-bodied Original Flavor
  • Turquoise – Organic Full-Bodied Flavor
  • Light Green – Organic Mellow Menthol
  • Dark Green – Organic Full-Bodied Menthol
  • Orange – Ultra-Mellow Original Flavor
  • Gold – Organic Mellow Flavor
  • Black – Full-Bodied Perique Blend

American Spirits are additive-free, but are they vegan? To learn more, check out a recent article of mine. In it, I looked at whether American Spirits are tested on animals and whether it’s kosher for vegans to smoke cigarettes.

I looked at examples of cigarette brands that are vegan and which cigarette companies do not test on animals. And I revealed whether American Spirits’ filter contains pig’s blood!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What color is the lightest cigarette?

Orange is the color of the lightest cigarette. Blue, gold, and light green are typically used for light cigarettes, while white, silver, and orange are used for ultralights. But this too may vary slightly from brand to brand.

American Spirits, for example, use an orange pack for its lightest cig, while Malboro employs silver and orange. Light and ultra-light cigarettes contain less tar and nicotine than regular cigarettes. Naturally, ultra-light is the lightest.

Cigarettes with tar delivery levels of 15 or more are considered full flavor or regular, 8 to 14 mg are considered “Lights”, while those under 7 mg or less are considered “Ultra Lights”. In addition to this, according to, since the 50s, cigarettes with the following features have been advertised as “Light”:

  • Cellulose acetate filters (to trap tar)
  • Highly porous cigarette paper (to allow toxic chemicals to escape)
  • Ventilation holes in the filter tip (to dilute smoke with air)
  • Different blends of tobacco

What about herbal cigarettes? Are they also light and better? And, what’s in them?

This is what I got into in a recent article I published. I explained their benefits and whether they are harmful. I looked at whether they are nicotine-free and whether they are addictive. But I also revealed cigarettes that are nicotine-free that you can smoke.

What color is the strongest cigarette?

Red or black is often used to denote the strongest cigarette. But it varies from brand to brand.

These are cigarettes that have higher nicotine and tar yields and are on the opposite end of the spectrum relative to the ones we looked at in the section above.

Can you order cigarettes through Instacart? In a recent article, I got into whether you could order cigarettes through Instacart. I looked at whether they will deliver cigarettes and whether you could order cigarettes from DoorDash or Ubereats.

I explained why Instacart does not deliver tobacco products and even revealed if it’s legal to deliver cigarettes.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are cigarette colors mandated by law?

Cigarette colors are not mandated by law. They were voluntarily adopted by cigarette manufacturers after they were banned from using certain descriptors.

Cigarette manufacturers claim that they are merely using these colors to communicate different brand packs, but others disagree.

They believe that these colors are being used by cigarette manufacturers to communicate brand imagery, no doubt. But in addition to this, they are also employed to lessen health concerns and as a replacement for descriptors such as “light”, “low”, and “mild”.

We are all familiar with colors being used as codes.

This is one of the key functions of cigarette colors. Just as “green” or “red” means different things to us, colors on cigarette packages are also meant to evoke different responses.

Cigarette manufacturers no longer use those banned descriptors. They have smartly leveraged color-coding to achieve the same purpose.

Now, can you order cigarettes through DoorDash?

This is what I explored in a recent article. In it, I showed how to order cigarettes from DoorDash and looked at whether Walmart delivers cigarettes with DoorDash. I spoke about whether DoorDash will leave your cigs at your door and whether they would check your ID.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


In the article, we found out why cigarettes are colored the way they are and what are the different cigarette colors. They are colored to differentiate the product lines and to perpetuate the impression that some products come with less health risk.

Then, we found out the color of the strongest cigarette and that of the lightest.

Red or black is often used for the strongest, while orange or white is used to denote the lightest. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering if these colors are mandated by law.

No, the colors are not required by law. They were voluntarily adopted by the cigarette manufacturers.

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Cindie Romanofsky

Saturday 21st of October 2023

So I started to send you a message and just as I was typing my name, the entire message disappeared. It was regarding how to get menthol cigarettes from a friend in Texas to me here in Ventura County, California (where selling them is illegal). Before I re-type it, I don't suppose you got it, did you?

Jeff Campbell

Wednesday 25th of October 2023

Hi Cindie

I did not get the email unfortunately! If selling them is illegal where you live, unfortunately no reputable online dealer is likely to ship them to you. But if you have a friend here in Texas who could buy them and mail them to you. Do be aware that may be technically against the law and could be subject to seizures and fines. But I have also read that it may be allowed if you present ID to the postal worker at the time of pickup.