Up in Smoke: Norwegian Tobacco History

Up in smoke Norwegian tobacco history 2

Girls presenting Benson & Hedges cigarettes at the “Britain -66 exhibition in Oslo (Photo: Ørnelund/Oslo Museum)

In 2012, Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten reported that an increasing number of Oslo citizens have quit smoking. In recent years, the number of quitters have dropped even further, but not too many years ago, Oslo was a tobacco melting pot.

Nowhere else in Norway, smoking has gained so low status as in Oslo, but smoking cigarettes used to be a trend that spread out from the capital to the rest of the country.

Throughout the 20th century, tobacco was very visible in the city: Oslo had a dozen tobacco factories, and cigarette commercials adorned apartment buildings, kiosks, restaurants and cinemas.

According to Karl Erik Lund at The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS), this happened around 1900 when the tobacco factories began with machine-produced cigarettes.

Gentlemen OnlyUp in Smoke Norwegian Tobacco history

Advertising from 1953: “Your great grandfather smoked Tiedemann’s Tobacco. Your great grandfather was a wise man” (Photo: Ørnelund/Oslo Museum)

In the beginning, cigarettes were reserved for the elite.

– It was the urbane, highly educated citizens – the fine gentlemen particularly in Oslo – who started smoking cigarettes, says Lund to Aftenposten.

However, from the 1920s cigarettes became more common. In addition, it became acceptable for women to smoke cigarettes including among lower social groups and in other geographic areas. At the most, more than 60 percent of the male population were smokers. In the 1960s, when the health risks of smoking were official, the trend reversed.

In the same way as with cigarettes, the highly educated in Oslo were the first to quit smoking.

Tobacco Until 2008Up in smoke Norwegian tobacco history 3

Oslo 1910: Female tobacco workers at Conrad Langaard’s tobacco factory (Photo: Wilse/Oslo Museum)

Around 1900, the tobacco production was flourishing, and the factories fought a successful battle to keep foreign producers outside the Norwegian market.

In 1915, Oslo had nearly 230,000 inhabitants and 18 tobacco factories. Until WWII, J. L. Tiedemann Tobacco Factory bought many of the smaller factories, and the company’s share thus increased from 10 percent in 1922 to 50 percent in 1940.

In 1968, the total Tiedemann production was gathered under one roof, however in the decades that followed the ban on cigarette advertising, new tax rules and the international trade market would make it difficult to hold market power. In 2005, the company was sold to British American Tobacco Company.

In 2008, closure was inevitable, and Oslo’s last tobacco factory was history.



Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Source: Aftenposten, SSB

Categories: Culture, History, Sports & Health

3 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Retrorambling and commented:
    About those rolling papers 😉

  2. Great choice of pictures! I found more evidence of Oslo as a tobacco melting pot in using brand names and advertising that reflected a broad cultural base.


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