Philip Morris said that their filter would “take the fear out of smoking”. Kent boasted that theirs “gives greater protection than any other cigarette”.

Sixty-five years on, filters are still going strong — and they remain, in the words of one scientist, “the deadliest fraud in the history of civilisation”.

They don’t work, are the greatest single item of litter found in the world and now, scientists have argued, it is beyond time that they are banned.

“Even though the cellulose acetate filter is the single most commonly collected item of litter globally, the industry has largely succeeded in avoiding the public outrage expressed towards plastic waste,” write a team of scientists in the BMJ.

“Unlike manufacturers of some other polluting post-consumption waste products, such…