Web Page No 2454
5th March 2018
First Picture: Kensitas CigarettesSecond Picture: Kensitas Coupon
Third Picture: Wild Woodbines
Fourth Picture: The famous ‘Lonely Man’ advert for Strand
Fifth Picture: Traditional Players Cigarettes
1960s cigarette culture
Cigarette smoke was part of the background of everyday life 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 establishment and it took Doll another four years to convince the doctors. Reports that smoking might be less than healthy started to appear in the press in fifties and people knew about the 'cancer scare'.
The Royal College of Physician's Report 'Smoking and Health' in 1962 was a sell out. But after the fuss died down, it failed to change many people's minds on the issue. Government health campaigns were even less effective.
Health concerns did, however, influence smokers. From the late fifties many people switched to filter cigarettes. Although people thought filter cigarettes were healthier, there was little evidence that they were any safer than plain cigarettes.
For many, economic considerations played a part. The Government increased tobacco duty significantly to reduce the popularity of smoking and filter cigarettes used less tobacco. The space taken by the filter was not taxed, so filter brands were significantly cheaper.
The other big change in smoking habits was an old idea re-introduced. The tobacco industry was dominated by the giant Imperial Tobacco (Wills and Player's). In an attempt to gain market share, smaller rival Wix introduced cigarette coupons with their Kensitas brand in 1956. Coupons were given away with the cigarettes and could be exchanged from free gifts, similar to the Green Shield Stamps scheme. I remember my father collected these!
Coupons were not new. The tobacco companies had used them in the 20s and 30s, but a coupon war saw such expensive gifts given away that some in the industry thought they were selling gifts rather than cigarettes. A mutual agreement not to trade coupons expired in 1956 allowing Wix to revive them.
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 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 'Modern Tip' range 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 from the ad was a hit record, but no one wanted a product for loners.
Wills succeeded with their next attempt, Embassy. Embassy was launched in 1962. It was marketed with coupons and was a larger cigarette available as plain or filter. This size of cigarettes were seen as a mid market, 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 the marketing campaign 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 50s and 60s. Paradoxically as some men quit, many women saw smoking as liberating.
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 No 6
Player's, Wills in-house rival, also saw their traditional best-selling brand Player's Medium. Player's Medium with its famous 'hero' sailor on the pack was a top seller in the 30s and 40s. It also lost out in the changes that were taking place in the 50s. It too was a plain, rather than a filter brand, but targeted the middle class, rather than working class market and appealed to women and well as men.
Player's new brand for the 60s, Player's No 6, was launched in 1965. Number 6 meant nothing, it was dreamed up by the marketing men at Imperial. It was a smaller brand, like Woodbine, but was predominately a filter brand. It was targeted equally at women as well as men. Player's No 6, challenged Embassy for the number one spot in the latter years of the 60s. Player's No 6 had a strong following with female smokers. In the 1971 film, Get Carter, Jack Carter's niece, Doreen, who worked in Woolworths, smoked Player's No 6.
With Imperial brands dominating the cheap and mid-priced sectors, there was more room to compete at the top of the market. Changes in smoking taste 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'.
Pure Gold from Benson and Hedges
Gallaher, Britain's second largest cigarette manufacturer, was also squeezed by Imperial but they took on Carreras' Rothmans King Size with new brand, Benson and Hedges Special Filter, in 1962.
Like Wills' Embassy it was a superb piece of marketing and packaging. The innovative new gold pack, which bore the Royal Warrant, suggested that the contents were of value. These two brands competed head to head, but B&H Special Filter 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 in the 60s.
Silk Cut, launched in 1964, showed a remarkable anticipation of future trends. it was one of the first mild cigarettes. The original 1960s' version was not particularly mild by later standards, but had significantly lower tar and nicotine ratings to rivals. It was not a huge seller, but established a reputation as a modern middle class brand. Although there is strong evidence to suggest mild cigarettes offer no health benefits over stronger ones, mild cigarettes took off in the 70s and 80s as people became more concerned about smoking and health.
The majority of cigarette brands that we know today were around in the sixties and many were new brands in that decade. Come the early 70s there was an awakening to the dangers of smoking and from then on everything changed..
Keep in touch
I was very interested in last week’s blog. I remember it all so well. I don`t if you remember Pauline McKinley, who was at Solent Rd. Her father was a friend of Buster Crabbe, and always said that no way was he a spy/ traitor, which some newspapers reported. Apparently, he was very patriotic. I don`t think that in our lifetime we will ever know the truth. Kruschev and Bulgarin came to the UK at the same time as the Russian ships visited Portsmouth. There was a lot going on. Later on it was a case of keeping quiet unless you wanted a diplomatic row. My parents are buried in the same cemetery but I haven`t seen Buster`s grave. Until a few years back, flowers appeared once a year on his grave and nobody was ever seen leaving them. I suppose the person died. What a mystery?
News and Views:
ON THIS DAY 5th March 1960-1965
On 05/03/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was The Larkins (ATV) 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 05/03/1961 the number one single was Walk Right Back/Ebony Eyes - Everly Brothers and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) 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 05/03/1962 the number one single was Rock-a-Hula Baby/Can't Help Falling In Love - Elvis Presley 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.
On 05/03/1963 the number one single was The Wayward Wind - Frank Ifield 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 05/03/1964 the number one single was Anyone Who Had a Heart -Cilla Black and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) 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.
On 05/03/1965 the number one single was I'll Never Find Another You - Seekers and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. 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. The big news story of the day was First public talking computer.