Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Eight): The JP Luxuria Onyx Marble Smokers’ Set

Sexing up a dirty habit

It is hard to imagine how 20 years ago from today – let alone 35 years ago from now – smoking paraphernalia would be deemed an acceptable Christmas present. A cigar would have been as customary on Christmas Day as much as a celebratory drink at the pub.

Since the first Argos catalogue was published in 1973, smoking paraphernalia was sold (though this was contemporaneous with its rivals). Interestingly, our next item dates from the year when Argos was taken over by British American Tobacco. Today, we would also tut-tut at cigarette companies buying up retail chains. Back in 1979, BAT not only owned Argos, but also the International Stores chain which included its International Supermarkets offshoot (renamed that year as ‘Mainstop’). To mark today’s entry…

The JP Luxuria Onyx Marble Smokers’ Set

Resembling something that Dr. Evil would happily purchase, it came with two ashtrays, a cigarette box and a gas powered lighter. Its twin set of ashtrays resemble extra thick cup coasters (probably a better use I would say, being an ardent non-smoker myself). The cigarette box could pass off as a jewellery box, looking almost at home with a pair of earrings as well as 20 Silk Cut. As for the lighter, quite a step up from the usual disposable variety.

The whole of page 137 of the Spring/Summer 1979 edition of the Argos Catalogue was taken up by cigarette lighters, ashtrays and cigarette boxes. The way they are presented is in a glamorous sense. Far removed from the fagnolia of its usual domains (pubs, houses and offices). They also have glamorous names like Sarome, Noble and Brougham (though the last name reminds me of a long closed public house in Ashton-under-Lyne).

JP, who imported the smokers’ set, was part of The Hira Group, whose products included Texet calculators. Some of JP’s items were promoted under the ‘Kingsway’ brand, whose wares would be seen in many a UK discount store.

  • Argos Catalogue edition: Spring/Summer 1979;
  • Page and item numbers: page 137, item 17;
  • 1979 Prices: £19.99 (£35.50, RRP);
  • 2014 Prices: £100.24 (£178.01, RRP).

S.V., 08 December 2014.

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