It’s no longer a mystery – Everyone knows that Smoking is harmful to your health!
Term “cigarette” the first thing that strikes is that caution warning printed on every cigarette box.
Although smoking is harmful to our health, But still people are inclined towards it and cannot get rid of it due to the addictive property of nicotine.
Cigarette smoking and using tobacco products of any sort can severely damage your health and cause dreadful disease such as mouth, throat and lung cancer, among others.
Now, listen to this very carefully:
This article is therefore not aimed at promoting cigarette brands or smoking.
Rather, it is meant to serve as a guide for millions of foreign nationals who visit India every year and look for top local cigarette brands to carry back home as gifts or for personal use.
Cigarette in India: Backgrounder
Large-scale production of cigarettes in India began as late as 1910. On October 24, 1910.
The Imperial Tobacco Company of India, the country’s first indigenous and large-scale cigarette manufacturer was established.
The cigarette made by this company were meant for supplies to British officers working on the Indian subcontinent and exports to select neighbouring countries.
In 1930, another cigarette company called Vazir Sultan Tobacco was opened near Hyderabad by local entrepreneur, Vazir Sultan.
A year later, NTC Industries, based in Kolkata opened a factory and began manufacturing its brand, Regent.
This company is also listed on the Indian stock markets and makes some brand that is available in select markets of the country.
Another entrant on the cigarette market was Mumbai-based Golden Tobacco Ltd, with factories located in Vile Parle (West) suburb of the metropolis.
The year 1936 saw the entry of another major cigarette manufacturer in India- Godfrey Phillips.
Today, The Imperial Tobacco Company of India is known by its acronym, ITC while Vazir Sultan Tobacco is a company listed on the Indian stock exchanges and has collaborated with global cigarettes major, British American Tobacco.
Together, they manufacture indigenous Indian brands, including some that existed since these companies began productions. Here we look at the Best cigarette brands of India.
Top Cigarette Brands in India:
1. Gold Flake
Gold Flake is a brand of cigarette selling in India for over a century. It was a brand owned by a British firm, WD & HO Wills.
The Imperial Tobacco Co of India began manufacturing this brand at its factories near Kolkata.
Today, Gold Flake is available in two-three variants, Gold Flake regular, Gold Flake Kings and Gold Flake Milds.
It is a brand manufactured by Golden Tobacco Co Ltd. Gold Flake Kings holds some 17.9 percent of the Indian cigarette brand market while the Lights variant holds estimated 13.4 percent of the market slice.
2. Four Square
Four Square is also one of the oldest existing brands of cigarette in India. It is available across the country.
The brand is available in several variants including Four Square regulars, Four Square Kings, Four Square Mild and Four Square flavoured.
Availability may differ according to locations. FourSquare is the flagship brand of Godfrey Phillips India Ltd.
Charminar is the leading brand of non-filter cigarette in India and has held sway in its segment for decades.
It is the flagship brand of Vazir Sultan Tobacco and draws its name from an eponymous historical monument in Hyderabad.
In recent years, VST is trying to revive the brand and give it a premium image to combat stiff competition from foreign and other local brands.
4. Navy Cut
Introduced in India as Wills Navy Cut, this was the premier brand of WD & HO Wills. The brand is now known only as Navy Cut and is made in India by ITC Ltd.
Earlier Navy Cut was available in three variants- Kings and Lights.
However, the two later variants were discontinued in view of rising popularity of foreign brands made in India.
Another hot brand of cigarettes in India, Classic, also comes from ITC. Currently, Classic is available in two variants- Classic regular and Classic Mild.
It retains a strong position in the ‘king’ sized premium cigarettes market of India. Classic and Classic Mild are also exported by ITC Ltd.
Classic Mild holds about 19 percent of the market share for light cigarettes.
Cavanders was initially a non-filter cigarette popular in coastal regions of India. It is a brand from Godfrey Phillips India Ltd.
In recent years though, Cavanders brand has undergone a total facelift.
Cavanders is now available as Cavanders Gold and Cavanders Gold Light- both being filter-tipped cigarettes.
Launched in the early 1980s, Charms was the premium and filter-tipped version of Charminar. It is a brand owned by Vazir Sultan Tobacco Ltd.
Charms were targeted at younger generation smokers during the launch, with the packet resembling blue denim that was a fad in those years.
Charms are available till date in various states of India.
For decades, Panama has held sway over the non-filter cigarette market of India. Panama is the flagship brand of Golden Tobacco Ltd.
It is now available in seven variants- an unmatched line for any indigenous Indian brand.
Panama non-filter cigarettes are available as Panama Virginia Regular and Panama Virginia.
The filter-tipped line includes Panama Filter, Panama Mini-Kings Special, Panama Deluxe Filter, Panama Premium and Panama Menthol.
Another brand still extant in India for over a century is Bristol.
In fact, in some parts of southern India, the ‘Bristol’ is synonymous with a cigarette: People ask for a vendor for a ‘Bristol’ of any brand.
Bristol owes its name to the eponymous city in England, where it was manufactured by WD & HO Wills before the brand was passed on to The Imperial Tobacco Company of India.
Now, ITC Ltd manufactures and manufactures the Bristol brand.
There are two brands of indigenous Indian cigarette brand that deserve special mention.
Chancellor was the first filter-tipped brand of India to be launched in dark brown rice-paper tubing instead of the conventional white coloured ones used by other brands.
Chancellor is a brand of Golden Tobacco Ltd. Nowadays you can also get Chancellor Blue in select markets of India. As the name suggests, Chancellor Blue comes with a blue-coloured rice-paper tubing.
In the 1960s, Scissors was a very low priced brand and was available only in non-filter variety. In the mid-2000s, its manufactures ITC Ltd upgraded the brand for the export market.
It is available in various parts of the world, especially in the six countries of the Arabian Gulf region and is a favourite among expatriate Asian communities there.
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Top Foreign Cigarette Brands of India
Over the years, multinational companies engaged in cigarette manufacture have entered India either as Joint Ventures or associates with local companies.
These include Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco Co Ltd, among others. Consequently, Indian made varieties of their topmost Cigarette brands are available in the local market.
There are top foreign Cigarette brands that are popular in India too.
- Marlboro and Marlboro Light – USA
- Davidoff (Regular, Light, and Ultra-Light)- Switzerland
- Benson & Hedges – UK
- Rothmans – UK
- Dunhill – UK
- Win – China
- Ruili River – China
- L&M (Regular and Light) – USA
- Double Happiness – Hong Kong
- More (Regular and Menthol) – USA
- Mild Seven – Japan
- Esse – South Korea
- Gudang Garam – Indonesia
- Black – Indonesia
- Surya – Nepal
- Cleopatra – Egypt
Cigarettes in India: Overview
According to a report released by Global Adult Tobacco Survey and India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, only four percent of India’s adult population smokes cigarettes.
World Health Organization and others estimate India’s smoker population at 270 million.
Though India is home to about 17 percent of the world’s human population, it accounts for less than two percent of smokers on this planet.
This translates as India having the lowest number of smokers for any country on Earth.
Illegal and Irregular Cigarette Markets
Meanwhile, there is also a huge illegal and irregular market for cigarettes in India.
This is the form of counterfeited cigarettes of major brands that are manufactured and sold by small illegal units as well as fakes that enter the country through its land and maritime frontiers.
Additionally, India has a booming black market for cheap cigarettes imported illegally from Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka and to some extent, Pakistan.
Earlier, the bulk of this black market was concentrated in border areas with these countries.
However, illegally imported cigarettes are now available openly in every major city and town in India, though rates may vary according to location.
Most cigarettes smuggled into India are from the eastern corridors of the country.
Impact of Illegal, Irregular Market
Illegally imported and fake cigarettes flourish due to high taxes imposed by the Indian government on those manufactured in India or imported under proper licenses.
Consequently, a ‘decline’ in cigarette sales of whopping 10 percent has been observed, says website of The Tobacco Institute of India (TTII).
India’s Unique Herbal Cigarettes
India is renowned for its ancient life science called Ayurveda. A Mumbai-based company has launched ‘Nirdosh’ (Flawless or Innocent) brand of herbal cigarettes in the country.
The brand is also sold worldwide by Amazon.com. Manufacturers of ‘Nirdosh’ claim these cigarettes contain a mixture of herbs based on a 5,000-year-old formula.
It retails for Rs.90 for a pack of 10 herbal cigarettes.
Indians spend whopping Rs.350 billion on smoking every year, despite only four percent of the country’s population being smokers.
This estimate is not surprising since residents of urban areas patronize pricey cigarettes- those costing Rs.10 and more per stick.
This is because of the general notion that expensive, low tar-low nicotine cigarettes are safer than their stronger counterparts.
Additionally, there is also a surge in the number of females, especially among the younger generation, who smoke cigarettes regularly.
This phenomenon is caused by fast vanishing taboos related to smoking by women and glamour attached to the vice by movies.
Bollywood movies since decades have depicted heroes and heroines smoking and the trend continues.
Despite strict rules related to smoking in public places and penalties, cigarette smoking in India is on the rise, though figures may reveal otherwise.
This augurs boom-time for top cigarette manufacturers of India.
However, Indian cigarette brands manufacturers have a long way to go before any Indian cigarette attains the fame of a global brand like Marlboro or Dunhill.
Indians had mastered smoking tobacco much before western colonials set their foot on the Indian subcontinent.
They smoked flakes of dried tobacco rolled in jackfruit or other leaves and called ‘bidi’.
In parts of India where tobacco grew or was farmed, people rolled the leaves into cigars of various forms.
Modern-day cigarettes were introduced to India somewhere between the 16th and 17th Century.
The earliest cigarettes brands to arrive on shores of India were imported from England and were brought by soldiers of the British East India Company.