JTI plain pack cig ads stubbed out again

Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges owner JTI has slammed the advertising watchdog’s decision to ban its second advertising campaign in as many months as going against “common sense and sound evidence”.

JTI has been rapped by the industry watchdog for claiming standardised packaging would only add to the perceived rise of illegal cigarette’s in the UK.

The tobacco firm’s second national press campaign lobbying against Government proposals to introduce plain pack cigarettes was challenged by Cancer Research UK for ‘exaggerating’ the potential implications on the illegal market trading of cigarettes.

The charity claimed the company’s claims “the black market in tobacco is booming” in one ad and that “standardising packs will make them easier to fake and cost taxpayers millions more than the £3bn lost in unpaid duty last year” in another were misleading and could not be proved.

JTI defended both statements and claimed it was a “well-established fact” that illegal cigarettes are a “major, global problem”. It added the £3bn figure had been taken from HMRC reports.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the claim the UK’s illegal cigarette trade is growing are misleading and failed to take into account it has “significantly reduced in the past ten years”. It also concluded that the ads did not make it clear that the £3bn loss on tax related to “upper estimates for cigarettes and HRT” and could be confused with what had already been lost in unpaid duty.

Paul Williams, JTI’s head of corporate affairs in the UK says: “Whilst we will not publish the advertisement in question again, we disagree with those who appear to wish to close down this debate by challenging the semantics of our statements rather than the substance.”

Last month (13 March), JTI’s first lobbying campaign was banned by the regulator.

JTI launched the third campaign in the series earlier this month as it steps up efforts to highlight the lack of evidence to support claims a ban on branded packaging would reduce smoking levels. A spokesman for the ASA said it had been notified by one individual of plans to submit an official complaint, but added it was still pending.

The Government is due to publish its recommendation on whether plans to standardised advertising on cigarettes would reduce smoking across the UK later this month.

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