Web Page 2044
19th April 2014
Bottom Picture: Kensitas coupons
Thanks to Griff for the lead to this page
60s cigarette culture
Cigarette smoke was part of the background of in the sixties. Most men and women lit up and children as young as ten took up smoking for the first time. Although most people had a vague awareness of the health risk, only a minority gave up smoking.
The first health warning came in 1950 when Professor Sir Richard Doll's research linked cancer with smoking. However, his report was for the medical world and it took him another four years to convince GP’s. Reports that smoking might be less than healthy started to appear in the press in fifties and people started to take the 'cancer scare' seriously.
The Royal College of Physician's Report 'Smoking and Health' in 1962 was a sell out, but after the fuss had died down, it failed to change people's minds and Government health campaigns were even less effective.
From the late fifties many people switched to filter cigarettes although there was little evidence that they were safer than plain cigarettes. The Government increased tobacco duty to reduce the popularity of smoking and as filter cigarettes used less tobacco, the space taken by the filter was not taxed, so filter brands were cheaper.
The other big change was an old idea re-introduced. The industry was dominated by Imperial Tobacco (Wills and Player's); in an attempt to gain market share, a small rival company introduced cigarette coupons with their Kensitas brand in 1956. Coupons that could be exchanged for free gifts. Coupons were not new. The tobacco companies had used them in the 20’s and 30’s, but now a coupon war saw such expensive gifts given away that some thought they were selling gifts rather than cigarettes.
By the early sixties Wills' market leading Woodbine cigarettes, the working man's favourite and one of the first mass market cigarette brands, was losing its market share. It was seen as an old man's product and as a plain cigarette, although in the smallest size, it was relatively expensive.
Kensitas were bigger, looked classier and gave away coupons. Wills tried and failed with two new brands, Bristol and Strand. Strand famously flopped with the lonely man campaign. The theme tune became a hit record, but no one wanted a product for loners.
Wills succeeded with their next attempt, Embassy which was launched in 1962. It came with coupons and was a larger cigarette available as plain or filter and were seen as a more middle class product. The Embassy Filter brand took the market by storm. It quickly became Britain's number one cigarette.
Part of the skill of marketing was to appeal to men and women equally. Cigarette sales to men peaked just after the War, but women were catching up with men in the 50’s and 60’s. Embassy smokers were younger people, often enjoying a night out. The traditional working man smoking his Woodbines and drinking mild was ousted by younger men drinking Watneys Red Barrel and smoking Embassy.
Player's, Wills in-house rival, also saw their best selling brand Player's Medium lose ground. Player's Medium with its 'hero' sailor on the pack was a top seller in the 30’s and 40’s. It also lost out in the changes that were taking place in the 50s. It too was a plain cigarette but targeted the middle class, rather than working class market and appealed to women and well as men.
Player's new brand for the 60’s, Players No 6 was launched in 1965. No 6 meant nothing, it was dreamed up by the marketing men. It was smaller like Woodbine, but was predominately a filter brand. It was targeted equally at women and men. No 6 challenged Embassy for the number one spot in the latter years of the 60’s. They had a strong following with female smokers, particularly those with working class occupations. In the 1971 film, Get Carter, Jack Carter's niece, Doreen, who worked in Woolworths, smoked No 6.
With Imperial brands dominating the cheap and mid-priced sectors, there was room to compete at the top of the market. Changes happened quickest with more affluent smokers and by the late fifties there was a small, but growing market for King Size filter cigarettes. Carreras, the third largest cigarette manufacturer, launched Rothmans King Size in 1957. It quickly became a market leader and they confidently advertised it as 'the best tobacco money can buy'.
Gallaher, Britain's second largest cigarette manufacturer was also squeezed in the mid market and they took on Rothmans with Benson and Hedges Special Filter in 1962. Like Embassy it was a superb piece of marketing and packaging. The new gold pack, which bore the Royal Warrant, suggested that the contents were of value. Benson and Hedges 'Pure Gold' campaign began in the 60’s. These two brands competed head to head, but B&H had the edge and it overtook Rothmans King Size in sales by 1965. However, Rothman's was still seen as the number one middle class brand.
Silk Cut, launched in 1964, showed an anticipation of future trends. It was one of the first mild cigarettes and the original 1960’s version was not particularly mild by later standards, but had significantly lower tar and nicotine ratings than its rivals. It was not a huge seller, but established a reputation as a modern middle class brand. Although there is evidence to suggest mild cigarettes offer no health benefits over stronger ones, mild cigarettes took off in the 70’s and 80’s as people became more concerned about smoking and health.
The majority of cigarette brands that we know today were around in the sixties however some like Dunhill, Airman, No Name and Passing Cloud have been lost for ever in the mists of time.
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News and Views:
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On this Day 17th April 1960-1965
On 17/04/1960 the number one single was My Old Man's a Dustman - Lonnie Donegan and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Armchair Theatre (ABC) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 17/04/1961 the number one single was Wooden Heart - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was The Budget (All Channels) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 17/04/1962 the number one single was Wonderful Land - The Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week Britain to release political prisoners after IRA peace offer.
On 17/04/1963 the number one single was How Do You Do It? - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 17/04/1964 the number one single was Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Liberal Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Prince Edward named.
On 17/04/1965 the number one single was The Minute You're Gone - Cliff Richard and the number one album was Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.