John Player Navy Cut: A Tactic to Evade Price Hikes?
Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) introduced a cigarette shorter in length to the market – John Player Navy Cut - on 02nd October 2017 (Image 1). John Player Navy Cut is a cigarette brand originally owned by the tobacco company John Player & Sons (commonly known as Player’s), a British tobacco company currently owned by the Imperial Tobacco. It is reported that Player’s retained the ownership of the ‘Navy Cut’ brand even though it is now sold by the Imperial Tobacco in the global market.
The marketing tactics detailed below were observed as the John Player Navy Cut cigarette was launched.
A “Gold Leaf” for a Cheaper Price
John Player Gold Leaf (JPGL), commonly known as ‘Gold Leaf’ amongst Sri Lankans, is a brand manufactured by British American Tobacco (BAT), the parent company of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC). It is reportedly the most sold cigarette brand in Sri Lanka. 
During the 2016 budget proposals, the government increased the price of cigarettes by increasing the taxes levied upon them. The price of a JPGL increased from LKR 32 to LKR 55 (171.88%) because of the tax revision.
The price of the cigarette in Sri Lanka depends on the length of the cigarette stick, a proxy indicator of volume of tobacco it contains. Being shorter in length enabled the JPGL Navy Cut to be cheaper and more affordable at a price of LKR 40 compared to LKR 55 of a JPGL cigarette, 27.3%. Image 2 is a leaflet distributed among the cigarette retailers by the CTC on the launch of the new cigarette. The slogan they used is “A Gold Leaf for a LKR 40” in both local languages.
Navy Cut’s shorter length also saved it from a price hike during the excise tax revisions in August 2018. The prices of cigarettes exceeding 72mm increased by Rs 5.00 per stick when the excise tax was increased by LKR 3.80. However, the price of the Navy Cut remained unchanged as it did not exceed the 72mm length prescribed by the gazette.
Sri Lanka has a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement and promotion prohibiting direct and indirect promotion of cigarettes. However, there were two posters (Images 3 and 4) promoting John Player Navy Cut displayed in the cigarette retail shops and other public places.
- Poster 1 – Image 3 shows a poster announcing “Coming soon – for a cheaper price” in Sinhala language. The poster contains the logo of John Player Navy Cut – the sail boat.
- Poster 2 – Image 4 shows a poster seen after the cigarette price increase in 2018 August in and around cigarette retailing shops. The poster, with the unique dark red colour of John Player brands as the background, just states “40” and “21+” printed in gold. It arguably indicates the price – LKR 40 and that only 21 years and older can buy it according to the age limit in Sri Lanka to buy cigarettes.
Marketing through Cigarette Retailers
The leaflet distributed amongst the retailers (images 2 and 5) included an invitation requesting their “enthusiastic corporation to popularise this product among the consumers”.
Experimenting a Two-Cigarette Pack
Navy Cut was one of the cigarettes in the two-cigarette pack that was seen in the local market in October 2018. Please see the TobaccoUnmasked page Violation of Cigarette Pack Regulations for more details.
Tobacco Unmasked Resources
- Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC)
- British American Tobacco (BAT)
- National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act
- Tobacco Industry Country Profile – Sri Lanka
- Violation of Cigarette Pack Regulations
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