Capstan (cigarette)

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Capstan cigarettes tin, WD&HO Wills.JPG
An old pack of Capstan cigarettes.
Product typeCigarette
OwnerImperial Tobacco
CountryUnited Kingdom
Introduced1894; 124 years ago (1894)
MarketsSee Markets
Previous ownersW. D. & H. O. Wills
Tagline"Time for a Capstan", "Have a Capstan"

Capstan is a British brand of unfiltered cigarettes, currently owned and manufactured by Imperial Tobacco. The brand dwindled in popularity when the health effects of tobacco became more widely known; few shops sell them today.


Capstan was originally launched by W.D. & H.O. Wills in 1894, and was one of the most popular brands of cigarettes in the early-twentieth century.[1] W.D. & H.O. Wills spent £4,000 (equivalent to £477,509.50 in 2018) on promoting the Capstan cigarettes in 1900, and these amounts were in addition to regular charges for advertising, including showcards and newspaper advertisements.[2] It was W.D. & H.O. Wills' answer to Player's Medium cigarettes.[3] In 1973, the UK Government published a table of the tar and nicotine contents of cigarettes available in the UK market, and Capstan Full Strength contained, by a margin of 0.21 mg/cigarette, the highest nicotine content (3.39 mg/cigarette) of any brand, and the second-highest tar content.[4][5] However, since 2004 cigarettes sold in the UK have had a cap of 10 mg of tar and 1 mg of nicotine per cigarette.

Various advertising posters were made for Capstan cigarettes, including one to encourage female workers in factories during World War II to smoke Capstan to relax at the end of a working day. One of the most well-known slogans at the time was "Time for a Capstan".[6][7][8] Another popular slogan after the end of WWII was "Have a Capstan".[9][10] A few celebrities advertised this brand, such as English actress Evelyn Laye and British Hollywood star David Niven.[11]

The song "Saturday's Kids" from The Jam's 1979 album Setting Sons features the lyric "Their mums and dads smoke Capstan non-filters/Wallpaper lives 'cause they all die of cancer".

Curved "Capstan Medium Cigarettes" enamel advertising sign under the bay window of a shop in Kington, England
Capstan cigarette


Capstan is mainly sold in the United Kingdom, but also was or still is sold in Germany, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Chile.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stubbed out: the 21 most iconic cigarette packets of all time".
  2. ^ Alford, B. W. E. (5 November 2013). "W.D. & H.O. Wills and the development of the UK tobacco Industry: 1786-1965". Routledge – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Vintage cigarette packets".
  4. ^ Russell, MA (1976). "Low-tar medium-nicotine cigarettes: a new approach to safer smoking". Br Med J. 1: 1430–3. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.6023.1430. PMC 1640397. PMID 953530.
  5. ^ "Timeline: Smoking and disease". 30 June 2007 – via
  6. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Advertisement for Capstan cigarettes".
  7. ^ "Real cigarettes in the Regal - Going To The Pictures".
  8. ^ "AP1588K - Never Go Without A Capstan, Cigarettes (30x40cm Art Print)".
  9. ^ " TOBACCO ADVERT. Capstan Cigarettes - 1951 - old print - antique print - vintage print - Fashion art prints: Posters & Prints".
  10. ^ "Cigarette & Tobacco adverts". Pinterest.
  11. ^ "Capstan – The Ardross-man".
  12. ^ "BrandCapstan - Cigarettes Pedia".
  13. ^ "Capstan".
  14. ^ "Brands".