Woodbine (cigarette)

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Wild Coodbine cigarettes, Musée Somme 1916, pic-121.JPG
An old pack of British Woodbine cigarettes, photographed at the Musée Somme 1916 of Albert (Somme), France
Product type Cigarette
Owner Imperial Tobacco
Country England, United Kingdom
Introduced 1888; 130 years ago (1888)
Markets United Kingdom, Ireland[1][2][3][4]
Previous owners W.D. & H.O. Wills

Woodbine is a British brand of cigarettes, currently owned and manufactured by Imperial Tobacco. Woodbine cigarettes are named after the many Woodbine flowers.


Woodbine was launched in 1888 by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Noted for its strong unfiltered cigarettes, the brand was cheap and popular in the early 20th century with the working-class, as well as with army men during the First and Second World War.[5][6] In the Great War, the British Army chaplain Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC was affectionately nicknamed "Woodbine Willie" by troops on the Western Front to whom he handed out cigarettes along with Bibles and spiritual comfort. In the 1890s, Woodbine cigarettes were offered at a margin of 19%, with a possible maximum discount of 10%. In the United Kingdom, the brand was sold at very low advertising costs and total expenditure on sales promotion for all cigarettes and tobacco brands in 1925 was only £12,500 per pound of tobacco sold.[7]

The intricate nineteenth century packet design remained current until the mid 1960s. When Wills changed the packaging, the public hated the new look and Woodbine sales continued to drop. Those in the trade knew this rebranding as "the rape of the Woodbine pack".[8]

In common parlance, the unfiltered high-tar Woodbine was one of the brands collectively known as "gaspers" until about 1950, because new smokers found their harsh smoke difficult to inhale.

A filtered version was launched in the United Kingdom in 1948, but was discontinued in 1988. Woodbines came in three different packs, 5 cigarettes, 10 cigarettes and 20 cigarettes.

A Woodbine vending machine, now in the Staffordshire County Museum at Shugborough Hall, England.


In the 1960s, a few television ads were made in which Gordon Rollings played a man who did various things (such as waiting for the bus or setting up a beach chair) which would always end in misery. He then would grab a packet of Woodbines from his pocket and light one up, followed by a happy tune and a man reading the line "Light up life with a Woodbine! It's Britain's best-selling cigarette!".[9][10][11] at the end. The ads were never played on TV however, as all television commercials for cigarettes were banned on 1 August 1965.[12][13] A jingle was also made to promote Woodbine in the late 1950s or early 1960s.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]