Imperial Tobacco giveaway ruled as breaching ad ban

Imperial Tobacco has been formally cautioned for breaching the UK law banning tobacco advertising. The moves marks the first time a tobacco company has been rapped for breaking the law since it came into effect.

The company inserted a series of 12 “Supertrivia” cards in packs of Superkings cigarettes, featuring examples of previous Superkings ad campaigns.

Bristol City Council Trading Standards, which is responsible for local enforcement of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotions Act 2002 as Imperial Tobacco’s head office is located in Bristol, investigated the company following a complaint.

The council concluded the company has breached the law in two ways. First, as the inserts constituted tobacco advertisements, as defined and prohibited by the act, and also as the cards constituted a free product under the act. It is an offence to give any product away to the public of which the purpose or effect is to promote a tobacco product.

The council was supported in its verdict by the Department of Health. Imperial Tobacco has signed a formal caution, although escaped a fine, and agreed not to run further promotions. Amanda Sandford, research manager of charity Ash, says: “This case shows that the tobacco industry simply can’t be trusted to uphold the law.”

An Imperial Tobacco spokesman says: “We went into it thinking we were OK, but Bristol Trading Standards decided it contravened the legislation.”

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