|Produced by||Imperial Tobacco|
Gitanes (pronounced [ʒi.tan], "Gypsy women") is a French brand of cigarettes, owned and manufactured by Imperial Tobacco following their acquisition of Altadis in January 2008, having been owned by SEITA before that.
Gitanes was launched in 1910 in four different versions, all of which were filterless. In 1918, Gitanes Maïs were introduced, which were a success in the rural areas of France. In the 1930s, the first graphic ads for Gitanes appeared. In 1956, the first filtered Gitane variant was introduced. In 1981, the "Light" versions are first marketed. In 1986, the first Gitanes Blondes were launched, which had become available internationally in 1987. However, they were a commercial failure. In 1988, the first "Extra light" versions were marketed. In 1991, Gitanes ultra lights were introduced. In 1990/1991, a simultaneous launch of a new version of Gitanes Blondes ultra light were brought on the market.
Gitanes are sold in many varieties of strengths and packages. The cigarette was originally made with a darker or brun (brown) tobacco, in contrast to the more widespread blonde. In honour of the name, the packet shows the silhouette of a Spanish gypsy woman playing the tambourine.
There is a distinction between the "blonde" style of the current Gitanes, and the classic style of Gitanes Brunes, both of which are sold in Europe and South America (most commonly in Argentina and Chile). The classic Gitanes Brunes tobacco achieved its characteristic and distinctive "bite" by using a fire-flued method of curing the tobacco, and a "rice" type of rolling paper which differs from most other cigarettes. The result was a cigarette which had both a strong flavor and a distinctive aroma.
Gitanes Blondes are available, filtered, in Light and Regular. The Gitanes Brunes are available in 70mm versions, filtered and unfiltered. In 2010, the size and content of the regular Gitanes were reduced. Gitanes Maïs (corn) are made with yellow corn paper.
Production in France was halted, with one factory remaining operational in the Netherlands. This was mainly due to the rise on tobacco levies imposed by the French Government in the wake of enforced EU health directives, which has forced up the price of French cigarettes to the level of those in the US, with the more aggressively promoted brands such as Marlboro now taking the majority market share."Gauloises and Gitanes exit France". BBC News. 1 September 2005.
The 1990s were particularly successful for Gitanes in terms of brand engagement. In an effort to increase awareness, the brand began sponsoring motor-sports such as Formula One racing and the Dakar Rally. These activities helped to attract a wider range of potential customers while avoiding any dilution of the brand image and thus retained the loyalty of its more artistic core customer base.
In July 2016, the French government considered a ban on both the Gitanes and Gauloises cigarette brands because they were deemed "too stylish and cool". The ban would also apply to brands including Marlboro Gold, Vogue, Lucky Strike and Fortuna. It is the result of a new public health law based on a European directive that says tobacco products "must not include any element that contributes to the promotion of tobacco or give an erroneous impression of certain characteristics". Four major tobacco companies have written to the government seeking clarification on the potential law, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the details of the plan. In the letter they accuse French health minister Marisol Touraine of an "arbitrary and disproportionate" application of EU directives.
The first art-deco packet design was produced by Maurice Giot in 1927. An image of a Gypsy dancer, designed by Molusson, first appeared on the cigarette packets in 1943. In 1947, Max Ponty refined the figure to a silhouette to create an image that is still in use today on the Gitanes Blonde packet. The dancer silhouette was reworked by many famous poster designers, including Savignac in 1953 and Morvan in 1960. The boxes have always featured the colours black, blue and white.
Gitanes had a long-standing partnership with the Equipe Ligier team. Following the acquisition of the Matra Formula One team's assets, Ligier entered Formula One in 1976 with a Matra V12-powered car, and won the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix with Jacques Laffite. This is generally considered to have been the first all-French victory in the Formula One World Championship.
In total the team won 8 races, got 47 podiums and earned 373 points during their partnership with Gitanes. In 1996, the sister company Gauloises became the new sponsor, ending a partnership that lasted 19 years.
In 1997 the team was sold to Alain Prost and became Prost Grand Prix in 1997. Prost GP, despite substantial financial backing by large private French companies, failed to make the team competitive and went bankrupt in 2002.
After retiring from racing following the death of his friend Jo Schlesser, Guy Ligier decided to found his own team and had engineer Michel Tétu develop a sports car named the JS1 (Schlesser's initials). The Cosworth-powered JS1 took wins at Albi and Montlhéry in 1970, but retired at Le Mans and from the Tour Automobile de France.
For 1971, Ligier had the JS1 developed into the JS2 and JS3. The JS2 was homologated for road use and used a Maserati V6 engine, while the JS3 was an open-top sports-prototype powered by a Cosworth DFV V8 engine. The JS3 won at Montlhéry in 1971 but failed to finish the minimum distance in Le Mans. Therefore, it was retired, and Ligier installed the Cosworth DFV in the JS2 road car, finishing second overall at Le Mans in 1975. Guy Ligier then switched his efforts into Formula One.
In Hayao Miyazaki's 1992 film Porco Rosso, the titular character is often seen smoking Gitanes throughout the film. In one scene the packaging is very visible, allowing the viewer to confirm the character's preferred brand.
The cover of the album 1974 Dancing on a Cold Wind, by Carmen, and the cover of the album 1981 Shades, by JJ Cale, both use the Gitanes design. The brand is mentioned in the song "Late Bloomer", from the album The Voyager, by Jenny Lewis: "She was smoking on a gypsy."
Gitanes is mainly sold in France, but also was or still is sold in Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Martinique, Israel, United Arab Emirates and Argentina.
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