RN Pipe Tobacco Tin

Up until 1989 sailors were able to purchase duty free and subsidised tobacco at both naval bases and onboard ships. Although different rules applied aboard ship, for those based on shore, each month every person who had declared themselves as a smoker received three cigarette coupons, with each coupon entitling them to 100 cigarettes or a tin of tobacco. For those who smoked pipes, small round tins of tobacco were available under the ‘RN’ brand:

The tins were originally gold, although this finish weathers poorly and so the tin now has a rusty finish. The lettering is in green and on the top reads ‘RN Pipe Tobacco’:

As a restricted product that could not be sold on ashore, the rear of the tin gives specific instructions for sailors:

This reads, “This tobacco is supplied duty free for the exclusive use of officers and men of the Royal Navy and is not to be landed, given away or otherwise disposed of contrary to regulations.”

The Grey Funnel Line gives more details on the scheme:

Your popularity soared if you didn’t smoke as the coupons were extremely tradeable. You could swap them for submariner’s sweaters, chef’s t-shirts, DMS boots, – in fact, just about any piece of kit you needed. Plus, apart from selling your coupons for a bit of extra spending money, it was also possible to find someone to do your duty for you in exchange for one, or more, of your coupons.

DCI(RN) 11/89 signalled the end of the Naval perk though, with the Admiralty deciding that the health and fitness of sailors should take priority over the perk, and that smoking should be discouraged in the face of such strong medical evidence. Over the next two years prices were gradually increased until they reached the same level as commercial products on general sale.

The quality of the packaging left something to be desired as one matelot recalls:

The tobacco was known Tickler I think and it came in a big tin which dried out very quick so it was put in a normal tobacco tin with a bit of cabbage leaf to stop it drying out

One comment

  1. RN ‘blue line’ DF cigarettes were in a plain white card carton with the RN and associated text in blue, each cigarette had a blue line marking at say 0 & 180 (iirc), likewise loose tobacco for cigarettes was in a rectangular tin with rounded corners and people would usually add a piece of orange peel to help keep it moist (and add flavour), the baccy was often rather woody with large pieces of leaf-stem.

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