Benson & Hedges

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Benson & Hedges
Benson & Hedges Silver 20.jpg
UK Benson & Hedges Silver slide box, with warning
Product type Cigarette
Produced by Philip Morris International
British American Tobacco
Gallaher Group
Japan Tobacco International
(Rothmans, Benson & Hedges in Canada)
Introduced 1873

Benson & Hedges is a British [1] brand of cigarettes owned by either Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, or Japan Tobacco, depending on region. In the UK, they are registered in Old Bond Street in London, and are manufactured in Lisnafillan, Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

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.


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.

A Royal Warrant was issued to the British company in 1878, after the required five years of supply to the Royal Family. This was revoked in 1999 due to a "lack of demand in the royal households".[citation needed] The Warrant seal, which had previously been on the flip lid of the box, was removed.


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.

UK market[edit]

Surreal Benson & Hedges poster at Victoria Station, London, c.1978

In the late 1970s, 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 packaging 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 "Dual" (dual-flavour) cigarette was introduced, with a user-poppable menthol capsule inside the filter. If the capsule is burst, the cigarette flavour is altered from plain to menthylated tobacco.

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 B&H in Quebec City.

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).

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



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 also 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.


The company 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.


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, the livery and apparel were substituted with "Bitten Hisses" (during the period when Jordan's mascot was Hissing Sid), "Buzzing Hornets" (while the mascot was an unnamed hornet), "Bitten Heroes" (while the mascot was an unnamed shark), or "Be On Edge" (BEnsON & hEDGEs when read aloud, sounding similar to "B and H".

The 2001 B&H F1 car.

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 included two players with the surnames Benson and Hedges to 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 such as "Fish and Chips" and "Black child" or "Nigger".[2]

"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.[3]

Canadian class-action lawsuit[edit]

The three largest Canadian tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald Corp, and Rothmans Benson & Hedges, are the subject of the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history, brought by current and former smokers. The case started on March 12, 2012 in Quebec Superior Court, and the companies face a potential payout of C$27 billion (US $27.30 billion) in damages and penalties.[4][5][6] In addition, a number of Canadian provinces are teaming up to sue tobacco companies to recover healthcare costs caused by smoking.[4]

On June 1st 2015, Quebec Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan has awarded more than $15 billion to Quebec smokers in a landmark case that pitted them against three Canadian cigarette giants, including JTI-Macdonald Corp.[7] [8]


  1. ^ a b "British American Tobacco - British American Tobacco". 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  2. ^ "Yahoo News UK & Ireland - Latest World News & UK News Headlines". Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  3. ^ Emerson, Jim (2005-09-08). "The Baxter Movie Review & Film Summary (2005)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  4. ^ a b Reuters, US C$27 billion suit vs Big Tobacco starts in Montreal March 13, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2013
  5. ^ Class Action Litigation Tobacco-related Litigation in Canada, p.14 (page 16 of PDF). Retrieved November 8, 2013
  6. ^ Backgrounder on the Canadian Tobacco Market p.6 (p. 7 of PDF). Smoking and Health Action Foundation, 2013
  7. ^ CTV News Judge awards $15 billion to Quebec smokers Retrieved on June 1st, 2015
  8. ^ CBC News Tobacco companies ordered to pay $15B in damages Retrieved on June 1st, 2015

External links[edit]