Mild Seven cigarettes are no more to be found in the smoker’s paradise. Japan Tobacco Inc. changed the name of its flagship cigarette brand from “Mild Seven” to “Mevius” in a bid to expand its global market share and stopped selling Mild Seven cigarettes this week. In their heyday, they were the 5th best-selling cigarette in the world. As of today, there may still be a few Mom and Pop stores carrying this iconic brand but better smoke’em while you got them—soon they will vanish in a cloud of mild smoke.
Mild Seven launched circa 1977, was Japan’s leading national brand of cigarettes with a 30 percent share of the domestic market. However, in recent years, the use of the word “mild” in the product’s name aroused controversy because it seemed to imply that the cigarettes were somehow less harmful than other brands. (I can remember when they were sold in cans, and sometimes placed on the bar of a bar in a seedy part of Minato-ku. Kind of like free pretzels. I’d smoke them, because they were free–and always regret it. Mild as menopause.)
Japan takes a very mild attitude towards smoking. Most life insurance companies neither penalize or reward smokers versus non-smokers. In other words, smoking in Japan doesn’t effect your life insurance payments either way in most cases. (If you don’t believe me, ask my life insurance representative.)
For those who are worried that their favorite cigarette is gone, fear not. The taste and composition of the cigarette will remain unchanged and over the next 10 months, JT will gradually introduce the Mevius brand in international markets while solidifying brand recognition in Japan . According to JT, the company selected the Mevius name to maintain continuity with its predecessor: both include the letters “M” and “S.” JT did not consider changing the name to Masochistic Seven or do an about face and call it Harsh Seven. No one is sure what the Seven in Mild Seven really refers to, unless smoking is consider the mildest of the seven deadly sins. (We forget what the seven deadly sins are but certainly smoking must be amongst them. Any Catholics in the house?)
Mild Seven has been the best-selling cigarette brand in Japan since 1978. Japanese sales top 1 trillion yen and are sold in Russia, South Korean, Taiwan and over ten more countries. Last year, there were 76,500,000,000 Mild Seven cigarettes sold. That’s a lot of coffin nails. Will Mevius do as much damage to the lungs of the world as Mild Seven? Japan Tobacco is waiting for that answer with bated breath…or waiting slightly short of breath, from smoking too many Mevius Menthol Lights.
One question still remains: what the hell does Mevius mean or stand for? One explanation is that M is for Mild, EVis for evolution, I is for “I”, U is for “You” the consumer, and S is for Seven. But that isn’t funny enough. The person who gives the most plausible and amusing answer wins an original pack of rare Mild Seven cigarettes. The loser gets a pack of Mevius. We’re anxious to hear your thoughts.
All of us at Japan Subculture Research Center would like to thank you for your reading the articles posted here this last year, your contributions, and your comments. Here are some of the articles we thought were the most amusing, edifying, or just fun, grouped together in general order. We had some outstanding outside contributions which made for some excellent reading–and to those contributors thank you as well. Whether you’re interested in Japanese culture or pop-culture, Japan’s nuclear problems, or yakuza and the Japanese underworld—there’s something for everyone. Enjoy!
I know–total self-promotion. What else do you think pays the costs of running this labor of love? Book sales, some donations, and whatever else I can scrounge up. All that aside, I’m hoping this will be a good read with a moral to the tale. All good stories have something to teach.
The HuffPost and Google News have started to turn the business into a con game–the con being that “exposure” will get you a real job as a journalist. Better think twice on that. If journalism is your calling, you may need to have a second job.
Yes, Ray Bradbury was a novelist but sometimes people can say greater truths in fiction than they can in an essay. I was sad to see him go and this is my small essay on what I find inspiring in his best novel, as a journalist, and as a father.
Any hard-boiled journalist or cop will tell you that coffee and cigarettes go well together. So I guess it was a stroke of marketing genius for Philip Morris to team up with Tully’s Coffee and offer a can of Tully’s Barista Blend Royal Presso with every 410 yen pack of Premium Quality Lark Cigarettes. Available in 3 varieties of lethalness. 6mg, 3mg, 1mg. Smooth, soft, and light. They even have the coffee packaged with the cigarette pack itself–just carry it to the register and you’re ready to go.
It’s almost perfect marketing except for the fact that the coffee is lukewarm when you get your cigs. I don’t know about you, but I either want my coffee hot or ice cold. Lukewarm coffee is like the Democratic Party of Japan–somewhere between the Socialist Party and the LDP and just plain sucky. Lark has customized the cigarettes with the slogan, “あなたに似合う味わいを” anata ni niau ajiwai wo—“(have) the taste that best matches you.”
Unfortunately, for me, Lark does not offer a “燃え尽きたきつい苦みの味わい” (moetsukita kitsui nigami) –“burnt out harshly bitter” flavor. I feel like my demographic has been ignored. This means I’ll have to stick to either not-smoking or find a vending machine somewhere that sells my old favorites.
LARK has always been innovative in its marketing. Years ago, it had a hit with Timothy Dalton aka James Bond, smoking their brand and intoning in a deep baritone voice, “Speak Lark” after dispensing with the usual non-smoking evil villain. We never had any idea what it meant but it resonated just the same. This campaign also seems to be a surefire hit. If you think about it, the combination of coffee and cigarettes in Japan actually makes a lot of sense. Once upon a time, instead of saying “smoke cigarettes” people actually said “drink cigarettes” (煙草をのむ).
It could be a trivia question someday. “Name two stimulants in Japan you can ‘drink'”. For just 410 yen, you have the answer.