Smoke cigs, get free stuff?!
February 2, 2016 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Back in the 1980s and 90s, my Dad used to collect cigarette coupons which got exchanged for free stuff (the arrival of the catalogue was much anticipated! ). Does anyone remember how the scheme operated (I.e how much coupons were worth) and in particular, when the scheme ended? I am particularly interested to know whether this was before the advertising of cigarettes was banned in the UK. Thanks!
posted by threetwentytwo to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh yeah! Each pack of Camels had a little $5 "Camel Cash" (C-notes) inside the wrapper. Save up enough, and you could "buy" yourself something from the catalog with them. One of my friends saved up enough to buy a really sweet stereo system. I don't think they had any cash value...just C-Note value. Marlboro had something similar - Marlboro Miles, I think.

This guy has some page scans of a Camel Cash catalog. Gosh, what I wouldn't give to have my very own fake gold camel necklace!
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ah, memories. I collected Camel Cash in the 1990s. You got one "dollar" per pack. The catalogs for the stuff you could buy were on display at the store. High value items like a jacket or a duffel bag were in the thousands of "dollars" as I recall. Small items like keychains and lighters were 50 "dollars."
But I just did a google image search for "camel cash" catalog and they look to be much cheaper. Perhaps I'm misremembering the value of each "dollar."
posted by k8t at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

i remember this. my mom smoked benson and hedges and you could collect the UPCs and trade them in for items. there were no points, it was all UPC-based. i found this catalog from them in 1997. this was in the US, though, not the UK.
posted by kerning at 10:12 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

We all (three kids) had Marlboro sleeping bags my mom bought this way, this was the 90s in the US.
posted by rubster at 10:15 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Embassy had proof-of-purchase coupons (in place of the old cigarette cards) and a catalogue. I seem to remember that it was possible to redeem them for money-off coupons or merchandise. JPS also had a catalogue with the emphasis on merchandise. This eBay auction includes a photo of a Player's No. 6 catalogue (70s) where jewellery items cost 750-1000 vouchers; you got five vouchers per packet of 20.
posted by holgate at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2016

Way prior to Camel Cash, there were other programs for the Brown & Williamson brands like Raleigh & BelAir. My best friend's parents smoked those brands & I remember the catalogs. According to this link, there was one coupon per pack, with 4 extra coupons if you bought by the carton. They could be redeemeed for 3/4 of a cent each, but were worth more if mailed in directly for merchandise. Here is a 1968 catalog.
posted by gimli at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2016

Either B&H or Lambert&Butler had a catalogue in the UK (if I remember what my grandfather smoked correctly).
posted by andrewcooke at 10:32 AM on February 2, 2016

Edward Albee's adaptation of Everything in the Garden, written in the 60s, had cigarette coupons as a prominent element --- and one which was apparently limited to only specific brands of cigarettes.
posted by jackbishop at 10:32 AM on February 2, 2016

andrewcooke - both did, I think. I seem to remember my gran switching from B&H to L&B because the latter had better coupons. Digging around, I see that the UK had coupon catalogues until the late 1990s.
posted by scruss at 11:19 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

my mom smoked benson and hedges

My grandmother did this with Belairs and was a voracious smoker and we had shopping bags full of coupons that would come with the cigarettes. There was a print catalog that you could send away for. Here's a sample page. This was definitely when I was a child so mid-70s (in the US) and onwards.
posted by jessamyn at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2016

Cigarette coupons might have been invented by the mystery writer Dorothy Sayers; her protagonist invents them in a novel, and she was a large part of the similar Mustard Club advertising while she was a copywriter in an ad firm in the 1920s: see in Maker and Craftsman, bio of Sayers.
posted by clew at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

I recall Embassy coupons & catalogues from the mid-’70s when my Dad smoked them. Regarding coupons in the UK, it says here that:
The other big change in smoking habits was an old idea re-introduced. The tobacco industry was dominated by the giant Imperial Tobacco (Wills and Player’s). In an attempt to gain market share, smaller rival Wix introduced cigarette coupons with their Kensitas brand in 1956. Coupons were given away with the cigarettes and could be exchanged from free gifts, similar to the Green Shield Stamps scheme.
Coupons were not new. The tobacco companies had used them in the 20s and 30s, but a coupon war saw such expensive gifts given away that some in the industry thought they were selling gifts rather than cigarettes. A mutual agreement not to trade coupons expired in 1956 allowing Wix to revive them.
posted by misteraitch at 1:38 PM on February 2, 2016

When I was a kid (in Canada), Mark Ten smoke packs came with a tear off part of the pack that was worth 1.25 'coupons'. You sent away for a catalogue, with a whole bunch of stuff and how many coupons you needed to claim you prize. My dad smoked Mark Ten, so I was able to collect a bunch of coupons, and cashed them in for one of those 'coffee, sugar, tea, flour' cannister sets, that I gave my mom for Chrismas. Here's an ad.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2016

My mom did this with Merit cigarettes in the 90s. I want to say it was around 1996 or so. She got a swiss army knife and a bathrobe, which were both big items that took a LOT of the little proof of purchase bits from each pack.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2016

(That was in the US.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:09 PM on February 2, 2016

I once saw Cheap Trick in a small club with 200 Marlboro bucks that a bartender friend of mine collected off the floor! Good times.....
posted by onesidys at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2016

Marlboro Miles were a thing in the US well into the early 2000s, I remember being super surprised that they were still allowed when I came back a few years after leaving home and my dad was still collecting them. He and my stepmom scored a lot of sweet camping gear for us all through the 90s, which I always found slightly embarrassing because of the Marlboro logo, but was always pretty decent stuff. I had a brown leather wallet that lasted me years (and I didn't mind carrying it too much because there was just a graphic logo embossed on it, nothing that actually said the name of a gross cigarette brand), and I still kind of covet the portable refrigerator that plugged into the car. We also had sleeping bags, camping dishes, and I think a tent?

I recall each miles coupon thing being worth 5 miles, though I don't remember if that was per pack or per carton. The latter seems more likely, as my parents tended to buy cartons. I don't remember how many miles the items cost, though.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:22 PM on February 2, 2016

Oh, maybe it was per pack. And here's a section of stuff that was available, with how many miles each item cost.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:26 PM on February 2, 2016

Dad says he thinks he stopped being able to use Marlboro miles around 2005 or 2006. The internet says 2006.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:28 PM on February 2, 2016

We also had that marlboro miles dome tent. It was surprisingly good quality. I also recently found a marlboro branded victorinox watch at a thrift store. It's a fairly nice thing.

The one thing I remember that hasn't been mentioned is that I think there were certain items that required so many miles that in the catalog the stipulated that you needed a minimum number of people going in on it to redeem it.
posted by Ferreous at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2016

I used Marlboro Miles in the 90s when I was a Marlboro Lights smoker. It was fairly sick, a way to feel like you were accomplishing awesome things by smoking. I worked at a summer camp and we pooled our miles and bought a really nice dartboard. It was 5 miles per pack, which meant 50 per carton, and the best items required hundreds or thousands of points.

Also, since I worked in youth outdoor programs at the time, I can remember how incredibly common it was to see Marlboro Miles items in the kids' gear. Duffel bags, very popular. Parkas. Denim jackets. Hats, both knit and baseball style. Gloves. Water bottles. Flashlights. Canteens. Coolers. Swiss Army knives. The outdoor thing was pretty big with Marlboro.
posted by Miko at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2016

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