Noted for its strong unfiltered cigarettes, the brand was popular in the early 20th century, especially with soldiers during World War I and World War II. 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 common parlance, the unfiltered high-tar Woodbine was one of the brands collectively known as "gaspers" until about 1950, because new smokers found their strong smoke difficult to inhale. A filtered version was launched in the United Kingdom in 1948, but was discontinued in 1988.
In James Herriot's books, his veterinary partner, Siegfried Farnon's brother, Tristan, smokes Woodbines.
Legendary chef Marco Pierre White in his autobiography The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the making of a Great Chef is quoted as saying,“Oh, that’s lovely wrist action you’ve got there. Fancy coming into the larder with me and earning yourself five Woodbines?”