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The brand was introduced in 1954, and became the best-selling brand of cigarettes in the United States. In 1999 the brand was the subject of an action by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against deceptive advertising.
In the last national survey in 2005, Winston ranked sixth in market value, tied with Kool brand cigarettes. Winston is also known for its more recent claim of being "additive free", although a secondary warning label on their advertisements states that "no additives in our tobacco does not mean a safer cigarette" which comes out of an FTC settlement involving both Winston and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco.
R.J. Reynolds sponsored the first two seasons (1960-1961) of the popular TV cartoon The Flintstones. The main characters Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were seen as spokestoons smoking Winston cigarettes during commercial breaks. For its third season, The Flintstones became more oriented towards children and as a result R. J. Reynolds was replaced by Welch's fruit juices as the main sponsor.
During the 1980s, Winston cigarettes became the most popular brand in Puerto Rico, probably because of their marketing Winston y Puerto Rico: No hay nada mejor ("Winston and Puerto Rico: There is nothing better"), as well as their cultural association with the "salsa sensual" or "salsa erotica" movement.
From 1972 to 2003, Winston served as the title sponsor of the highest level of NASCAR, the Winston Cup Series, until removing itself from the sport because of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (the series is now known as the Sprint Cup Series).
Since changing to the new pack style in late 2008, Winston has removed "additive free" from the text on the pack, though this description remains on the ten-pack cartons. In 2010, brand descriptors for Winston Lights and Ultra Lights were changed to color-coded descriptors in order to comply with FDA regulation of tobacco products.
Winston cigarette packs are now only available in boxes. However, the top of each pack contains an optional opening to simulate the design of a soft pack.
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