Smoking & cigarettes

One of James Bond’s greatest pleasures is cigarettes and he usually smokes sixty per day of a special Balkan and Turkish mixture with three gold bands. The cigarettes are specially made for him by Morland’s and carried in a wide, thin cigarette case of black gunmetal that can hold fifty; even in smoking James Bond knows exactly what he wants.

Morland cigarettes: the triple gold bands

Fleming smoked similar cigarettes, initially with a single gold band, adding two more when he was promoted to the rank of Commander in Naval Intelligence – the rank is signified by three gold stripes on the cuff. James Bond’s lighter is a battered black oxidized Ronson to compliment his gunmetal cigarette case, which he carries in his right-hand hip pocket.

With just a few exceptions Bond’s smoking remains consistently heavy throughout the books. In the first chapter of Casino Royale he lights his seventieth cigarette of the day; in From Russia, With Love we are privy to the SMERSH file on Bond, which notes his heavy smoking and distinctive cigarettes; and a report by the secret service Medical Officer in Thunderball comments on his smoking sixty a day and notes that his Morland cigarettes were of a much higher nicotine content that cheaper brands.

The Morland cigarettes are variously described by Fleming as a Balkan and Turkish mixture; a Macedonian blend; or a Balkan mixture; and stored in a black gunmetal cigarette case that Fleming describes variously as flat and wide, which Bond carries in his hip pocket.

Although this might have referred to his jacket pocket, Diamonds Are Forever proves that it was his trouser pocket; after losing his jacket he reaches into his right-hand hip pocket and finds his cigarette case is missing too.

Fleming describes the case in Casino Royale as holding fifty, but it seems difficult to imagine carrying such as large cigarette case in his trouser pocket and it doesn’t seem to be a size of cigarette case that was usual either. Perhaps that is why in a US edition of the short story Octopussy Major Dexter Smyth notes that Bond’s cigarette case was large enough for around twenty-five, although the original version notes that it holds “a round fifty”. Did the US editor find a such a cigarette case hard to imagine?

Morland’s James Bond Special No. 1

Morland & Co. no longer exists, but was located at 83 Grosvenor Street in London. Thanks to the raised profile of Morland cigarettes brought about by the James Bond books the company obtained Fleming’s permission to produce a James Bond Special with the distinctive gold bands. These were sold in elegant and rather sturdy blue boxes of fifty or 100 with the Morland & Co. logo elaborately made out in gold leaf on the top.

Two versions were produced, both with and without the addition of the name “James Bond” on each cigarette and the inside lid of the box announced “James Bond Special No. 1 The Exclusive Balkan Cigarette” as well as “By Permission of IAN FLEMING”. Purchasers were also supplied with a book of matches advertising the James Bond specials.

Although Morland & Co. continued to sell the Special No. 1 after Fleming’s death in 1964 (brought about a lifetime of heaving drinking and smoking), it closed at some point during the late 1960s or early 1970s. However, some surviving examples continue to be available today on eBay.

Local brands

However, while working abroad Bond smokes local brands once his Morlands’ have run out, such as Chesterfield in the US and Royal Blend in the West Indies. His cigarette supply was soon depleted and once he was out of Morlands 007 would be forced to smoke a local brand instead.

A number of brands are mentioned by Ian Fleming, which he no doubt field tested during his own visits in the field.

The other James Bond cigarette brands

  • In the United States and Bahamas he goes for Chesterfield king-size (Live And Let Die, Goldfinger, and Thunderball), a brand which is still popular today in Europe.
  • Bond smokes Diplomates in Istanbul, which were recommended to him by Darko Kerim and were “the most wonderful cigarette he had ever tasted”.
  • He accepts a Player’s cigarette from “Captain Nash” on board the Orient Express, despite hating Virginia tobacco, just to put Nash at ease.
  • Royal Blend is 007’s choice in Jamaica (Doctor No and The Man With The Golden Gun).
  • While in Paris in From A View To A Kill he smokes Laurens Jaune.
  • Senior Service is the brand in Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man With The Golden Gun.
  • And Shinsei is what he is offered in Japan, which he found “good and sharp on the palate and lungs” and compares to a slow burning firework. Bond lights his Japanese cigarettes with a match rather than his regular Ronson lighter while disguised as a miner prior to infiltrating Blofeld’s “garden of death” in You Only Live Twice.

Some of these brands are still popular today, but a number are untraceable online and, like Morland’s, are presumably no longer available. Bond also smokes a cheroot in Moonraker at Blades while playing partnering M at bridge. He is trying to establish how Drax is cheating.

Cutting back

There are a number of occasions when Bond deliberately cuts down on nicotine, even dropping his favoured cigarettes for health reasons briefly.

In Live And Let Die, before going against Mr Big, James Bond gives up alcohol and cuts down to ten a day while training under Quarrel; although he goes through the same fitness routine in Dr No prior to sailing for Crab Key, Fleming doesn’t mention whether he cuts down on cigarettes on that occasion.

After the damning report from the Medical Officer in Thunderball M sends Bond to Shrublands to get him mission fit, where his cigarettes are confiscated. Following his return to London Bond eats more healthily and cuts down to ten a day; he also switches to Duke of Durham King-sized, which we learn are much lower in tar and nicotine than his customary Morland’s.

And in The Man With The Golden Gun we learn that he is trying to keep his cigarette consumption down to twenty Senior Service after recovering from his brainwashing at the hands of the Russians, missing that target by five; not bad considering his previous intake of nicotine.

Saved by the habit

Although smoking helped Ian Fleming to an early grave, Bond’s smoking habit did actually help save his life on a couple of occasions. When Grant shoots Bond as the Orient Express enters the Simplon tunnel Bond is saved by holding his cigarette case in between the pages of The Mask of Dimitrios (Eric Ambler) to absorb the bullet’s impact (also see article on the James Bond cigarette case).

The other occasion is when, after being captured by Dr No, he pockets a table lighter which he then puts to good effect while on the obstacle course designed by the villain to test his endurance and pain threshold.

Health Warning: I shouldn’t really need to remind you that smoking can seriously damage your health. This article is not intended to promote smoking simply because James Bond does; it’s your choice.

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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