Barclay cigarettes were first introduced in the United States by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company in 1966, as a long-size (80 mm) brand tipped with the Millecel filter (which was used on various cigarette brands throughout the world in the 1960s). This version was later discontinued.

Brown & Williamson relaunched Barclay in 1980 as an entry in the ultra-low tar brand segment. With its Actron filter, the brand was marketed to consumers desiring a flavourful low delivery alternative. (The company claimed that the Actron filter improved the taste delivery through its unique smoke swirl which impacted a large number of taste sensors in the mouth simultaneously.)

On April 13, 1983, the Federal Trade Commission announced it had determined that its then-testing methodology for "tar", nicotine, and carbon monoxide understated the measured deliveries for Barclay, which had originally been advertised as having 1 mg of "tar" and 0.1 mg of nicotine. As a result, they were removed from the F.T.C.'s reports for "tar," nicotine, and carbon monoxide until a new, accurate methodology could be tested and adopted. The Commission found that there is a significant likelihood that the same problem exists with two other cigarette brand made by Brown & Williamson -- Kool Ultra and Kool Ultra 100's.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco was bought by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 2004; they continued to manufacture Barclay for a time, but the Barclay brand was retired in 2007.

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