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Silk Cut is brand of low tar cigarette produced by the Gallaher Group. The packaging is characterised by a distinctive stark white packet with the brand name in either a purple, blue, red, silver, white or green square.

Tobacco makes up 75% of the filling, the rest is Cytrel, a cellulose-based tobacco substitute.

The brand increased in popularity around the world throughout the 1970s and 1980s as the dangers of cigarette smoking became well known and consumers switched to a lower tar brand. At 5 mg tar, Silk Cut contained less than half the tar content of stronger brands such as Benson and Hedges or Marlboro.

The brand was made popular by an advertising campaign designed by Saatchi and Saatchi from 1984. The adverts showed scissors cutting through silk, in a response to constraints on tobacco advertising (notably, in one particular image a pair of surgical scissors were depicted). Later adverts had increasingly obscure images where the only clue for what the advert was for were the white and purple colours or a reference to silk with a cut in it. The adverts were a success and sales of Silk Cut rocketed. Silk Cut were also the title sponsors of rugby league's Challenge Cup for a while and the competition was known as the 'Silk Cut Challenge Cup'. Silk Cut also sponsored the successful Jaguar XJR sportscars that competed in World Sportscar Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

It is now illegal to advertise tobacco in many countries and the adverts have stopped. In the 1990s Silk Cut was the best selling brand in the UK, but sales have declined behind cheaper budget brands as tax on tobacco has increased. In an attempt to counteract this, the manufacturers responded in the new millennium by introducing bevelled corners to redesigned regular gauge packaging, and marketing their first 'slim' cigarette in the UK, even though this wasn't the first 'slim' cigarette available in the UK as More, Karelia and Vogue are available in most tobacconists. Capri were available in the UK until the mid 1990s.

Silk Cut is also available in a lower tar version and an ultra low tar version with a tar content of only 0.1 mg. When terms such as 'light' and 'low tar' were made illegal to use in the UK for use of tobacco promotion (for fear that it deluded smokers into thinking such products were safer), some commentators predicted that Silk Cut's name and good brand-recognition as a low-tar product would favourably affect sales of the brand to health conscious consumers. Silk Cut Blue cigarettes contain 0.3mg Nicotine and Tar content is 3 mg. Silk Cut Silver cigarettes contain 0.1mg Nicotine and Tar content is 1 mg. Silk Cut White cigarettes contain 0.01mg Nicotine and Tar content is 0.5 mg. Silk Cut cigarettes are also available in a '100s' range (superking size) and in a menthol variety.

It is a misconception that the tobacco in Silk Cuts contains less nicotine than other cigarette tobacco. The lower nicotine levels are caused by the design of the filter, which has many more holes than regular strength cigarette filters, to mix the smoke with air.

Silk Cut is or was the brand of choice for writers Warren Ellis, Nick Hornby and Tom Stoppard, singers Robbie Williams, Dolores O'Riordan, Freddie Mercury and Tom Chaplin, and actress Helena Bonham Carter. It is also preferred by the fictional characters Bridget Jones and Alan Banks, Merrily Watkins, female 'Deliverance Minister' character created by Phil Rickman, as well as Lucifer in the novel I, Lucifer (Glen Duncan), by Glen Duncan, the comic book character John Constantine created by Alan Moore, and by Morvern Callar in Alan Warner's novel of the same name.



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