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How Long Do Cigarettes Stay Fresh? (And How To Store Them)

If you smoke, you want to have the best possible smoking experience. If you want to store cigarettes or happen to come across a pack of old smokes, you may be thinking to yourself, “how long do cigarettes stay fresh?”

Unopened cigarettes can stay fresh for as long as six months to a year and do not need to be unrefrigerated. However, storing cigarettes in a freezer can help them stay fresh for as long as two years, but their taste can be negatively affected if they are frequently frozen and thawed out.

In this article, I’ll be going over how long cigarettes stay fresh, if you can smoke old cigarettes, and how to store cigarettes. Keep reading to learn about the best ways to keep your cigarettes fresh and tasty.

Do Cigarettes Go Bad?

Red Clock With Cigarette Hands With a Pack of Cigarettes Nearby

Cigarettes don’t go rancid or ‘expire’ in the way that food goes bad. Cigarettes can eventually lose their moisture and become stale, which affects their flavor. This results in a less satisfactory smoking experience, but not a more dangerous one.

Cigarettes are derived from tobacco, which is a plant product. By design, tobacco has a certain degree of moisture that works with natural resins and artificial additives to provide an ‘ideal’ smoking experience. When that moisture is leached out into the air, the tobacco gets dry and stale.

The only way that tobacco can ‘spoil’ in the conventional sense is if it gets wet. When tobacco gets wet, mold can grow on it. This means you may end up smoking mold rather than tobacco, which isn’t pleasant. 

How Do You Know if Cigarettes Are Expired?

Cigarettes don’t ‘expire,’ but you can tell that they’re stale if you roll the end of a cigarette between your fingers and dry tobacco falls out of the end. In a fresh cigarette, the tobacco would be tightly packed and difficult to roll out. Other signs include fast burning and a nasty taste.

Speaking of expiration, the World Health Organization advised that cigarettes shouldn’t have an expiration date on them because this would imply that the product is safe before the date – and with cigarettes, as we’re well aware, there’s no safe time to smoke them.

Side by side, a stale cigarette will smell less fresh than a fresh cigarette. If you light a stale cigarette, it will burn faster because the moisture has dried up – it’s like lighting dried firewood vs. greenwood.

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Can You Smoke 10-Year-Old Cigarettes?

You can smoke cigarettes of any age if they’re intact, light, and produce smoke. The older the cigarette, the less pleasant it will likely be to smoke. It will also burn faster. Age doesn’t do anything to make cigarettes more unhealthy than they already are.

Old cigarettes (fossilized would be more accurate after ten years!) are smokable, but why would you want to put yourself through that when fresh cigarettes are widely available? 

The only thing you have to worry about with old smokes is a cigarette burning quickly. The taste is likely pretty unpleasant as well, but go ahead and smoke 10-year-old cigarettes if it will satiate your curiosity!

How Do You Keep Cigarettes Fresh for a Long Time?

Cigarettes can be kept fresh by being stored in a humid environment in their original packaging. This can be a refrigerator, freezer, or humidor. Opening cigarettes or storing them in a dry place will make them stale more quickly than keeping an unopened pack in the freezer.

Essentially, putting cigarettes in the freezer traps the moisture within the tobacco plant matter. This helps them stay fresh for longer, but some argue that when thawed, cigarettes can sometimes taste stale. In such a case, the stale taste is likely because of some moisture being lost while thawing.

The paper wrapping can also become fragile from moisture being lost, making the cigarettes more fragile and burn unpredictably.

For short-term storage, you can keep cigarettes in the fridge or in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard or closet. Unless you prefer to store cigarettes in the fridge or freezer for some reason (such as the milder taste), there’s no real need to refrigerate them.

Should Cigarettes Be Kept in the Refrigerator?

Keeping cigarettes in the refrigerator can help preserve their inherent moisture, especially if you keep them in a drawer with controlled humidity. High humidity and cool temperatures preserve the tobacco and keep the cigarettes fresh for longer than if they sat on a room-temperature shelf.

Refrigerators, and especially drawers with controllable humidity, are akin to the humidors that cigar aficionados store their cigars in. For cigars, their natural tobacco wrapping is very sensitive to humidity. With cigarettes, though, their paper wrapping is not as sensitive.

The worst you’d have to worry about is the paper drying out and causing uneven burning when the cigarettes are smoked.

If you plan on smoking your cigarettes within six months to a year, it may not even be necessary to refrigerate them at all. Within that time frame, there is little benefit to refrigerating or freezing them.

How Long Do Cigarettes Last in the Freezer?

Depending on how long the cigarettes were on the shelf before being sold, they can last as long as two years in the freezer. This also depends on whether they’re in their original packaging because opened cigarettes will go stale much more quickly than sealed ones will.

Putting cigarettes in the freezer can also alter their taste. Some of the more intense aromas within the tobacco become milder, producing a milder taste. The cigarettes will also smell less pungent when smoked.

People who want to temper the aggressive tastes within a bold type of cigarette (Marlboro Reds or Lucky Strikes, for example) may freeze them for a short period of time. This causes a cigarette’s smoke to ‘mellow out,’ so to speak.

A caveat with freezing cigarettes is that it is typically only good for long-term storage – frequent freezing and thawing of tobacco can make it dry out. Ironically, this can lead to the tobacco not staying fresh for as long as you’d like and can eventually ruin its taste.

If you do choose to freeze your cigarettes, it’s important to ensure the package’s plastic wrapping is still intact. Removing the plastic wrap will enable moisture from the freezer to penetrate the cigarette’s packaging, and could damage your smokes before you’ve even had a chance to enjoy them.

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How Long Do Cigarettes Last After Opening?

A Pack of Pall Mall Cigarettes With a Lighter on Top

After opening a pack, cigarettes will begin to go stale as soon as two days, though this depends heavily on how long they were on the shelf before being bought. Fresher packs may last as long as a week after opening, though this is more an exception than the rule.

Cigarettes are generally considered perishable because most smokers only buy one to three packs at a time. Also worthy of note is that almost a third of smokers smoke 20-29 cigarettes per day, according to the CDC. This means that for most smokers, there is not much of a demand or need for cigarettes to last very long after they’re opened.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an avid smoker or an occasional one, it’s probably safe to assume you like your cigarettes to be fresh and tasty. Cigarettes don’t spoil in the same way that food does, but they can eventually lose their freshness and flavor. Short-term, a cupboard or fridge is fine for storage, and keeping cigarettes in the freezer can help preserve them for a long period of time. 

When storing cigarettes in the fridge or freezer, it’s vital to keep them sealed to prevent moisture from seeping in, as it can ruin the cigarettes.

Thanks for reading!

John G.

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Reading about cigarettes being kept fresh. My wife and I smoke, she smokes about a pack a day and me probably 1-1/2 to 2. We are considering buying cigarettes online in addition to changing brands to save money. The information above says to keep unopened packs or cartons in a humid area for best storage. Can they stay in a cabinet in the garage for a week or up to 30 days without going bad or do you recommend the fridge instead. I'm considering just ordering every month or so rather than running to the store all the time, so I may have as many as 10-20 cartons in storage to open when needed. You mentioned humid, which in my garage is more humid than the inside that has air conditioning, but no sure exactly what you meant by humid. To use in the south, humid means a little warm with not much ventilation, ha, please explain what you mean by a humid place that would not be in the fridge.


John G

Jim James

Friday 28th of July 2023

Good question. Since cigarettes have a two-year shelf life from the date of manufacture, they should be good unopened with no loss of taste and freshness for at least 30 days in your garage. But, since the garage is not air-conditioned, I would probably err on the side of caution and store them in a closet or cabinet inside your home, which is climate controlled, so that the cigarettes are not subjected to changes in temperature. My opinion is that the changes in temperature would be more detrimental than a constant temperature, despite the lower humidity level in your home.

If you decide to buy in larger quantities, I would recommend storing them in a freezer. They will still lose freshness and will eventually become stale when frozen, but they will stay fresher for longer than when stored at room temperature.

I hope this helps.