In 1963 Liggett & Myers introduced the Lark brand with its trademark charcoal filter in an effort to halt a five year downward drift in sales. 1 The distinguishing feature of the brand, both in terms of physical characteristics and taste was the 3 piece “Keith” filter (named for Dr. Charles H. Keith, “Supervisor of Physical Chemistry” for Liggett & Myers, who developed it) the middle section of which contains small charcoal granules, which purportedly reduces the harshness of the cigarette’s smoke.

Liggett & Myers underwent several corporate name changes over the ensuing years but kept the Lark brand in their product mix until 1998, when Liggett Vector Brands Inc. sold Lark, along with the L&M & Chesterfield brands, for $300 million to Philip Morris Companies Inc., later known as the Altria Group. (The sale involved only domestic rights Philip Morris already owned the international rights to the three brands, which it had purchased in the late 1970s.) 2 As of 2008, Lark continues to be manufactured and sold by Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria Group. 3

Since its introduction and despite several prominent advertising campaigns, Lark has never held a large share of the U.S. cigarette market. As of 2008 update , the brand had less than 1% of the U.S. market share, but was extremely popular in Japan. citation needed

Packaging and ingredients edit

Lark is currently sold in the following packages

  • Lark Red Pack (Full Flavor) Soft Kings and 100s
  • Lark White Pack (Lights) Soft Kings and 100s

The Lark Soft Pack contains the following ingredients (listed in descending order by weight) and tar and nicotine content 4

  • Tobacco
  • Clove
  • Water
  • Sugars (Sucrose and/or Invert Sugar and/or High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Glycerol
  • Licorice Extract
  • Diammonium Phosphate
  • Ammonium Hydroxide
  • Cocoa and Cocoa Products
  • Carob Bean and Extract
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Tar (12 mg)
  • Nicotine (1.0 mg)

Lark which is sold in Japan

  • Lark Full Flavor(Soft/Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Milds(Soft/Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Classic Milds(Box)
  • Lark Super Milds(Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Extra Milds(Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Ultra One(Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Menthol X(Box)
  • Lark Milds Menthol(Box)
  • Lark Super Menthol(Box)
  • Lark Ultra Menthol(Box/100’s Box)
  • Lark Mint Splash(Box(Menthol Mint Capsule))

Advertising history edit

From its introduction in 1963, the brand came in a maroon colored package with white print (the trademark shield was initially white but was soon changed to gold along with some of the other graphics). And for most of the brand s life it has sported the motto Richly Rewarding, yet Uncommonly Smooth.

Although Philip Morris continues to promote the brand heavily in Japan, it receives little to no domestic advertising. This would explain why its share of the U.S. market has declined over the years since experts generally agree that cigarette brands usually lose market share when they are no longer promoted. 5

Past advertising campaigns, however, have been conspicuous. As expected, much of the advertising, particularly that in print, centered on the charcoal filter and its effect on taste. 6 Probably the most extensively run and best remembered advertisement, however, was a television spot from the 1960s in which an off screen narrator exhorted those on the street to show us your Lark pack. Meanwhile, throughout the piece the William Tell Overture blared while the words have a Lark, have a Lark, have a Lark today were sung to the overture s melody. Everyone it seemed had a pack of Larks and was only too happy to show them. 1

Another notable advertisement campaign from the early 1970s featured a hot air balloon with the Lark brand name and colors, as seen here 2 and here 3 . The balloon was a symbol for the “smoothness” of Lark cigarettes. 4

Lark was also advertised in the 1980s with James Bond style appearances by Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore. Future Bond Pierce Brosnan also advertised Larks in two commercials that aired only in Japan.

Parodies edit

  • On George Carlin’s album FM & AM, Carlin insinuates that “Show us your Lark” is a hidden sexual innuendo he remarks, “Don’t try that Lark thing in the Bowery those guys will show you their Larks, man.”
  • A parody of the commercial was created by comedian Stan Freberg for Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. In it, tuxedo clad partygoers are asked to show their packages of frozen Jeno’s Pizza Rolls and they do. Ultimately a Lark executive (Barney Phillips) complains about the use of the music followed by the appearance of the Lone Ranger and Tonto asking the Lark executive about the same thing. 7
  • A similar parody was presented in a fake commercial for Saturday Night Live during its first season, where the announcer urged everyone to “show us your guns”, in a similar manner as the Lark commercial, minus the singing. The parody first aired on SNL’s very first episode on October 11, 1975. 8

Health concerns edit

Because of its unique activated charcoal filter, from its inception Lark has been the subject of inquiry into whether it is safer or more harmful than cigarettes in general.

According to Anne Landman with the American Lung Association of Colorado, “The technique used in the marketing of Lark through hospitals and the medical profession was exactly similar to that used in the marketing of Kent in 1952.” Ms. Landman’s research, which she began in 1998, further reveals that Liggett & Myer’s marketing campaign several months before the release of the Surgeon General’s 1964 Report on Smoking and Health was directed at creating the rumor that medical scientists endorsed Lark as the safest cigarette. This marketing technique is credited for Lark’s sales surpassing those of Kent in the Buffalo area and nearly doing so in the Houston area. 9

Perhaps the biggest controversy about the reputed safety of Lark cigarettes was created by the publication of It Is Safe to Smoke by scientist Lloyd Mallan. Mallan recounts the findings of numerous scientists who all conclude based on the research conducted that smoking can be rendered harmless or considerablely less harmful if the cigarette is equipped with a charcoal filter. The only other brand in the United States at the time with a charcoal filter was Tareyton, whose filter had a different structure from Lark and was deemed to be less effective. 10 Hawthorne Publishing, however, took the book off the market in 1967 after a congressional investigation was launched into allegations that the tobacco industry had financed it. 11

Subsequent research questioned whether the charcoal filter might have actually made Lark a more dangerous cigarette. A paper published in March 1997 by J.L. Pauly, et al., offered the following conclusion

Charcoal granules are incorporated into cigarette filters to aid in removing toxins in cigarette smoke. In studies of Lark, a popular American cigarette with a charcoal filter, charcoal granules were observed on the filter surface, and were released from the filter when the cigarettes were smoked. During smoking, the toxin containing charcoal granules are inhaled or ingested. The specific adverse health effects of inhaling or ingesting carbon granules have not been addressed nevertheless, the smoker, as an educated consumer, should be informed of the possible health risks.


References edit

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