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Benson & Hedges

Benson & Hedges is a British brand of cigarettes owned by the Gallaher Group. They are registered in Old Bond Street in London, and are manufactured in Lisnafillen, Ballymena, Northern Ireland for the UK and Irish markets, and by British American Tobacco PLC in Weybridge, England for other markets. The cigarettes are available in Gold, Black or Silver forms. Benson & Hedges also manufactures Hamlet cigars.


Benson & Hedges was founded in 1873 by Richard Benson and William Hedges as Benson and Hedges Ltd. The company was formed to make cigarettes for the then Prince of Wales, Albert Edward. Alfred Paged 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 who also purchased the Canadian branch in 1960. Benson & Hedges Ltd in the UK was acquired by Gallaher Limited in 1955 (now the Gallaher Group).

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 This was revoked in 1999 due to a "lack of demand in the royal households. The Warrant seal, which had previously been on the flip lid of the box, was removed.


UK (British) Market

Benson & Hedges is the second most popular brand available in the UK , particularly amongst the 16-30 age range of smokers, although they are relatively expensive compared to other brands. In contrast, Benson And Hedges Silvers are somewhat cheaper. However, they have a lower tobacco and nicotine content than the Gold brand. On 1 May 2007, Gallaher introduced Benson & Hedges Black. The new 10 mg 'value for money' cigarettes are available in slide packs of 20. The slide packs (Benson and Hedges Silver and Black) are aimed towards young adult smokers. There was a proposal to distribute packets of Gold in 16 in retail outlets in order to keep the price under £5, however the idea was never fully implemented; however, packets of 14 are available in some retail outlets for a lower price.

Popular slang for Benson & Hedges in the UK is 'B&H', as in "I'll have 20 B&H please". In addition to this some smokers will request "20 Bensons please." Due to their relatively high nicotine and tar levels, some refer to them as 'Bangin' Headaches', in a reference to the effect this has. They are also colloquially called "Benny Hedgehogs" in London and around the Black Country area of Britain or alternatively as Golden Beauties.

In the late 1970s Benson & Hedges ran a notable advertising campaign which actually turned to advantage the increasing curbs on what could be said and shown in cigarette advertisements. A striking series of photomontages and cinema films, devised by Collett Dickenson Pearce at the peak of that agency's success, featured the gold pack in various surreal juxtapositions and transformations, devoid of words and people.

Irish Market

Benson & Hedges sold in Ireland are generally identical to the UK, although prior to 2003 they were manufactured in the Republic, until the Irish production was also moved to Ballymena. Packs of below 20 in size are not sold, with only 10 packs also existing prior to the ban on small sized packs by the Irish government in 2007; and the Black/Silver variants are not lower in price - again, having been the same price even before the introduction of a minimum selling price in 2007. Benson & Hedges Gold are the most popular cigarettes in Ireland

Overseas Market

In the 1930s, Benson & Hedges (Overseas) Ltd was established by Abraham Wix to handle overseas 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 excepting Taiwan and the Philippines. They also own branches in the Middle East and Africa. B&H is popular amongst young smokers in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand. B&H cigarettes are also obtainable in Canada, a popular brand being "Belmonts", which are manufactured by B&H in Toronto.

Australian Market

In Australia Benson & Hedges are available in the following variations: Classic, Rich, Smooth, Subtle, Fine and Ultimate, the colours of the packaging being Red, Purple, Blue, Sky Blue, Grey and White respectively.


Cricket (Australia)

Throughout the 1980s Benson & Hedges was the major sponsor of international cricket in Australia, holding the naming rights for most of the One Day International tournaments such as the World Series Cup and the World Championship of Cricket. All sponsorship rights were relinquished when Australian federal government legislation banned tobacco advertising at sporting events.

Fireworks (Canada)

Throughout the 1990s Benson & Hedges sponsored the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire firework competitions in Canada in both Toronto, ON (1990-2000) and Vancouver, BC (1991-2000), until tobacco advertising restrictions were legislated by the Canadian federal government. International fireworks comptetitions were also held for many years in Montreal, under the name "L'internationale Benson & Hedges". These competition are now sponsored by Loto-Québec.


From to , Benson & Hedges was the primary sponsor of Jordan Grand Prix team. At races where the ban on cigarette advertising was in force, the name was substituted with "Bitten Hisses" (during the period when Jordan's mascot was Hissing Sid), "Buzzing Hornets" (while the mascot was an un-named hornet), "Bitten Heroes" (following September 11, 2001 for one race), and latterly 'Be On Edge' (BENSON & HEDGES).

Benson & Hedges also sponsored Tony Longhurst's team between the 1980's and early 1990's in Australian Touring Car racing.


They were the favourite brand of German hacker Hagbard (Karl Koch) who often used "Benson" and "Hedges" as his passwords or screen names when breaking into US computers according to Clifford Stoll's book The Cuckoo's Egg.

Benson & Hedges No. 5 is the cigarette of choice of the protagonist in Robert Heinlein's 'Glory Road.'

Other Information

Oasis members Noel and Liam Gallagher smoked Benson and Hedges during their 90s heyday, with Noel even naming his two cats "Benson" and "Hedges". While Noel has switched brands, Liam still smokes the Gold Special Filters. Also, in the mid 1990s, Oasis released a collection of their singles up until their 2nd album "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?". The singles were sold in a special box shaped and coloured like Benson & Hedges cigarette packets.

The American version of the cigarette is credited with starting the 100 mm craze in the 1960s. Marketers capitalised on Benson & Hedges reputation for making cigarettes when they brought out the longer cigarette with an advertising campaign centred on the "disadvantages" of the Benson & Hedges 100s. The Lost Boys Of Penzance, a surf band from Encinitas, CA, have recorded "Disadvantages of You", which was the music used for the TV commercial "Oh the disadvantages of the new Benson and Hedges 100s".

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 includes two players with the surnames Benson and Hedges to the squad. When reading the squad she mistakenly took the name of the brand for players names as all the other players had been wrote down on a discarded pack. To add to the humour, it turns out Benson and Hedges are only run of the mill 3rd division players, one of whom is 43.

A pair of twins in New Zealand were named "Benson" and "Hedges" after the brand and were cited by a New Zealand judge amongst a list of inappropriate children's names, alongside names like "Fish" and "Chips", and "Number 16 Bus Shelter".

In an early 1994 interview documented in Everett True's book Nirvana the Biography, Kurt Cobain stated that he smoked Benson and Hedges menthol ultra lights

Benson and Hedges are mentioned in Lùnapop's hit "Un giorno migliore".


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