Benson & Hedges

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Benson & Hedges
Benson hedges logo.png
Product typeCigarette
Philip Morris International
(Rothmans, Benson & Hedges in Canada)
British American Tobacco
Japan Tobacco International
CountryUnited Kingdom
Introduced1873; 147 years ago (1873)
MarketsSee Markets

Benson & Hedges is a British brand of cigarettes owned by either Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, or Japan Tobacco, depending on the region.[citation needed] In the UK, they are registered in Old Bond Street in London, and are manufactured in Lisnafillan, Ballymena, Northern Ireland.[citation needed]

They are predominantly made from Virginia tobacco.[1]

In some countries where Philip Morris does not hold the Benson & Hedges trademark, such as the Philippines, a variant of the North American Benson & Hedges cigarette brand is sold under the "Philip Morris" brand using similar packaging.[citation needed]


An old pack of English Benson & Hedges cigarettes, with a UK text warning at the bottom of the pack

Benson & Hedges was founded in London in 1873 by Richard Benson and William Hedges as Benson and Hedges Ltd. Alfred Paget Hedges succeeded his father in the business in 1885, the same year which Richard Benson left the business. The 1900s saw branches of Benson & Hedges Ltd. opening in the United States and Canada. In 1928, the American branch became independent, and was bought by Philip Morris in 1958. Benson & Hedges Ltd in the UK was acquired by the Gallaher Group in 1955.[2]

A Royal Warrant was issued to the British company in 1878, after the required five years of supply to the Royal Family. This was the brand of cigarettes preferred by King George VI, who was famed for his heavy cigarette smoking. The royal warrant was revoked in 1999 due to a "lack of demand in the royal households".[3] The Warrant seal, which had previously been on the flip lid of the box, was removed.


In July 1968, Phillip Morris released Virginia Slims which were a spin-off of Benson & Hedges intended to be sold to women. They were sold during a period of time where society was beginning to realize the dangers of smoking. Therefore, they were a thinner and more "elegant" alternative to regular cigarettes.[4]


Damon Hill driving for Jordan Grand Prix at the 1999 British Grand Prix. Notice the alternative livery used.

Formula 1[edit]

From 1996 to 2005, the company was the primary sponsor of the Jordan Grand Prix team. When racing in countries with bans on tobacco advertising (such as the United Kingdom, France and later Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, Italy, Turkey), the team used alternative liveries such as "Bitten & Hisses", "Buzzin' Hornets", "Bitten Heroes" and "Be on Edge" to bypass the bans on cigarette advertising while still promoting their product.

Australian Touring Car Championship[edit]

Benson & Hedges sponsored Tony Longhurst's team in the 1980s and early 1990s in Australian Touring Car racing. All sponsorships ceased when 1996 federal government legislation banned tobacco advertising at sporting events.

Ice skating[edit]

Benson & Hedges sponsored a touring ice show, "Benson & Hedges on Ice", in the late 1980s. Debi Thomas made her professional debut with the show.


Tony Longhurst's 1988 Bathurst 1000 winning Ford Sierra at the Bathurst museum

Throughout the 1980s the company was a major sponsor of international cricket, with naming rights for most of the one-day international tournaments including the World Series Cup and the World Championship of Cricket.


Benson & Hedges was a big sponsor of the iD Dunedin Fashion Week in New Zealand from the 1940s until 1995, when tobacco sponsorship was banned completely. The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 was already passed in 1990 which restricted smoking in offices, the public parts of workplaces, and in public and eating places and transport; banned advertising of tobacco products, tobacco sponsorship, and tobacco advertising on other goods, and established a health sponsorship council.

Before that however, Benson & Hedges sponsored the fashion week by awarding their tickets in gold cigarette box-inspired packaging, encouraging women to smoke their brand on the catwalk and by allowing the women to pick various novelty items and cigarette accessories.[5]

Benson & Hedges sponsored fireworks competitions in Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia, until tobacco advertising laws passed by the Government of Canada came into force in 2000.

Benson & Hedges sponsored the movie B&H Golden Dreams (next B&H Gold & Dreams) and B&H Golden Dreams Extreme on TV3 in the 1990s.


Canadian class-action lawsuit[edit]

The three largest Canadian tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald Corp, and Rothmans Benson & Hedges, were the subject of the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history, brought by current and former smokers. The case started on 12 March 2012 in Quebec Superior Court, and the companies faced a potential payout of C$27 billion (US $27.30 billion) in damages and penalties.[6][7][8] In addition, a number of Canadian provinces are teaming up to sue tobacco companies to recover healthcare costs caused by smoking.[6]

On 1 June 2015, Quebec Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan had awarded more than $15 billion to Quebec smokers in a landmark case that pitted them against three Canadian cigarette giants, including JTI-Macdonald Corp.[9][10]


The cigarettes are available in Gold or Silver forms, and in some countries also as Red, Green (Menthol), Blue, White and Black. Japan Tobacco also manufactures Hamlet cigars.

In total, the brand was or still is sold in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Pakistan, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Ceuta and Melilla, Italy, Cyprus, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Seychelles, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Canada, United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Croatia .[11][12][13][14][2][15]

UK market[edit]

Surreal Benson & Hedges poster at Victoria Station, London, c. 1981

In the 1980s, the company's products were advertised in a series of posters and cinema films which featured the gold pack in various surreal juxtapositions and transformations, devoid of words and people. In 2001, brand was changed from Special Filter to Gold, and a Silver version was introduced, with reduced tar content and 0.1 mg less nicotine, at a slightly cheaper price. In 2008, a 14 cigarette pack was launched, alongside existing 10 and 20 packs. In July 2009, a Gold and Silver versions of rolling tobacco were launched. As of June 2011, the company's UK brands were Gold, Silver, White and Gold Superkings, and rolling tobacco. Discontinued former brands in the UK have included: Sovereign, Gold Bond, Virginia Red, Virginia Blue, and Black.

In October 2012, a new cigarette called Benson and Hedges Dual was introduced. If the smoker prefers a menthol cigarette, they press the capsule inside of the filter and the cigarette goes from regular to a menthol tasting cigarette.

As of 2018, the brands of Benson and Hedges cigarette sold in the United Kingdom are: Benson and Hedges Gold (sold in both King size and Superkings), Benson and Hedges Silver (sold in King size only), Benson and Hedges Blue and Sky Blue (sold in both King size and Superkings), Benson and Hedges Dual (sold in King Size only), and recently Benson and Hedges introduced Benson and Hedges Blue Dual Superkings, along with Benson and Hedges Blue Dual Double Capsule, a cheaper alternative to Benson and Hedges Dual. Benson and Hedges also sell Benson and Hedges Silver Rolling Tobacco in 30 gram pouches only. Along with this, all Benson and Hedges cigarettes, with all other brands sold also, are now only sold in packs of 20s as of the 2017 introduction of the plain packaging laws.

Overseas markets[edit]

In the 1930s, Benson & Hedges (Overseas) Ltd was established by Abraham Wix to handle international trade. This branch was acquired by British American Tobacco in 1956. Today, British American Tobacco markets Benson & Hedges throughout Asia and the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, but with the exception of Taiwan and the Philippines. The Canadian branch of Benson and Hedges is owned by Philip Morris International. In Canada, a popular brand is "Belmonts", manufactured by Rothmans, Benson & Hedges inc. in Quebec City.[citation needed]

In the United States, the brand is owned by Philip Morris USA and available varieties include Kings (box), Menthol (box), Multifilter Kings (soft pack), DeLuxe (box), DeLuxe Menthol (box), Luxury, and Luxury Menthol (soft pack or box).[citation needed]

In Australia, the company's cigarettes are available as Classic 25s, Rich 25s, Smooth 20s, 25s, Subtle 25s, Fine 25s and Ultimate 25s, in the standard Australian plain packaging.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

Oasis members Noel and Liam Gallagher smoked Benson and Hedges during the 1990s, with Noel naming his two cats "Benson" and "Hedges". Oasis released a collection of their singles up until their second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. The singles were sold in a special box shaped and coloured like Benson & Hedges cigarette packets.

In the film Mike Bassett: England Manager, Bassett (played by Ricky Tomlinson) writes down his squad for a match against Belgium on a packet of Benson and Hedges; his PA unwittingly includes two players with the surnames Benson and Hedges in the squad.

Twins in New Zealand named "Benson" and "Hedges" after the brand were cited by a New Zealand judge amongst a list of inappropriate children's names, alongside names including "Fish and Chips" and "Black child" and "Nigger".[16]

"Benson Hedges" is the second track on the album Aim and Ignite from the American band Fun.

Benson Hedges is the name of the wedding planner, played by Peter Dinklage, in the Michael Showalter film The Baxter.[17]

The identities "Benson" and "Hedges" were encountered by Clifford Stoll during his investigation of the hacking incident described in The Cuckoo's Egg. The intruder was eventually discovered to be in Europe.[18]


United States[edit]

Products available in the US from 2020.

  • Benson & Hedges Premium (Full Flavor)
  • Benson & Hedges Luxury (Lights)
  • Benson & Hedges Deluxe (Ultra-Lights)

United Kingdom[edit]

Products available in the UK from 2016.

  • Benson & Hedges Blue
  • Benson & Hedges Dual
  • Benson & Hedges Gold
  • Benson & Hedges Silver
  • Benson & Hedges Silk
  • Benson & Hedges Sky Blue
  • Benson & Hedges Option
  • Benson & Hedges Switch
  • Benson & Hedges Platinum

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "British American Tobacco - British American Tobacco". 31 December 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Benson & Hedges". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. ^ John Crace (23 August 2010). "What's a royal warrant exactly?". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  4. ^ Garber, Megan. "'This Is No Shape for a Girl': The Troubling Sexism of 1970s Ad Campaigns". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Smokin'! When cigarettes and fashion went hand in hand". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b Reuters, US C$27 billion suit vs Big Tobacco starts in Montreal 13 March 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2013
  7. ^ Class Action Litigation[permanent dead link] Tobacco-related Litigation in Canada, p.14 (page 16 of PDF). Retrieved 8 November 2013
  8. ^ Backgrounder on the Canadian Tobacco Market[permanent dead link] p.6 (p. 7 of PDF). Smoking and Health Action Foundation, 2013
  9. ^ Judge awards $15 billion to Quebec smokers, CTV News, Retrieved on 1 June 2015
  10. ^ Tobacco companies ordered to pay $15B in damages, CBC News, Retrieved on 1 June 2015
  11. ^ "BrandBenson and Hedges Worldwide - Cigarettes Pedia". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  12. ^ "BrandBenson and Hedges Canada - Cigarettes Pedia". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  13. ^ "BrandBenson and Hedges U.K. - Cigarettes Pedia". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  14. ^ "BrandBenson and Hedges U.S.A. - Cigarettes Pedia". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Brands". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Yahoo News UK & Ireland - Latest World News & UK News Headlines". Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  17. ^ Emerson, Jim (8 September 2005). "The Baxter Movie Review & Film Summary (2005)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Stoll to star in Nova adaptation". Computerworld. 17 September 1990. Retrieved 1 December 2015.

External links[edit]