Kent Cigarettes: A Brand of Rich History and Global Reach
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Kent cigarettes, a popular American brand, have a long-standing history and a global presence today. Manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the United States and British American Tobacco elsewhere, Kent cigarettes have gained recognition for their filtered design and health protection claims. Named after Herbert Kent, a former executive at Lorillard Tobacco Company, this brand has a fascinating story that spans decades and countries.
Origins and Innovations
Kent cigarettes were introduced to the market in 1952 by Lorillard Tobacco Company, coinciding with a time when consumers became increasingly concerned about the health risks associated with smoking. It was during this period that a series of articles titled “Cancer by the Carton” published in Reader’s Digest created a significant impact on public perception. These articles highlighted the potential dangers of smoking and prompted many Americans to seek out filtered cigarette options.
Kent capitalized on this emerging demand by promoting its “famous micronite filter,” which was touted as providing the “greatest health protection in history.” This marketing strategy proved successful, leading to a surge in Kent’s sales. In fact, it is estimated that Lorillard sold a staggering 13 billion Kent cigarettes within the brand’s first four years on the market.
However, it later came to light that the Micronite filter in Kent cigarettes manufactured between March 1952 and May 1956 contained compressed carcinogenic blue asbestos. This revelation triggered concerns over potential health risks, including the development of mesothelioma. As a result, several lawsuits were filed against the company. In response, Lorillard quietly switched the filter material to cellulose acetate in mid-1956, a safer alternative.
Popularity and Enduring Appeal
Despite the asbestos controversy, Kent cigarettes continued to enjoy significant popularity throughout the 1960s. However, as more filtered cigarette brands promising even lower tar levels entered the market, Kent’s dominance began to wane. Smokers were enticed by the allure of a “safer” smoke, and alternative brands gained traction.
During the 1960s, Kent cigarettes garnered even more attention through its sponsorship of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Actor Dick Van Dyke was often seen smoking Kent cigarettes in commercials, alongside Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam. The brand’s packaging was also highlighted, emphasizing its “crush proof box.”
Kent’s presence extended beyond the United States. In 1977, Lorillard sold the overseas rights of Kent and its other brands, leading to British American Tobacco becoming the brand’s owner in international markets. Kent became one of their most popular brands, alongside Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and Rothmans.
In 2015, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company acquired Lorillard Tobacco Company, making Kent cigarettes part of their portfolio. This acquisition further solidified Kent’s position in the industry and ensured its continued availability to consumers.
Kent’s Impact in Romania
Kent cigarettes made a significant impact in Romania between 1970 and 1990. During this period, Kent became the most sought-after cigarette brand in the country. The demand was so high that it was often used as a form of payment or even as a bribe. In the later years, Kent cigarettes were only officially sold in hard currency shops, leading to a thriving black market. Smuggling became prevalent, with a limited number of Romanians who were allowed to travel abroad bringing in Kents. The 2004 short film “Un cartus de Kent si un pachet de cafea” (A pack of Kent and a packet of coffee) by Cristi Puiu even highlighted the prevalence of bribes involving Kent cigarettes.
Global Presence and Markets
Kent cigarettes have established a strong presence in numerous countries across the globe. Some of the countries where Kent is or has been sold include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Czech Republic, Croatia, Iraq, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, South Africa, Syria, Israel, Iran, United States, Kosovo, Mexico, El Salvador, Chile, Turkey, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Vietnam, Singapore, Mongolia, China, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
Kent cigarettes have left an indelible mark on the tobacco industry with their introduction of filtered cigarettes during a time of growing health concerns. Despite the initial controversy surrounding the use of asbestos in their filters, Kent cigarettes have endured and maintained a global presence. As an American brand with a rich history and worldwide availability, Kent continues to be one of the prominent players in the cigarette market.
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