JTI’s campaign aimed to raise consumer awareness around the Department of Health’s consultation into the use of plain packaging last year. It included three separate pieces of creative (pictured below), all referring to a 2008 consultation on plain cigarette packs. The ads claimed the Government “rejected” the proposals at the time due to “no credible evidence” moving to adopt plain tobacco packaging would prevent people taking up smoking, particularly young people.
The ads prompted complaints from Cancer Research UK and ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), which said the claim was “misleading” and could not be substantiated.
JTI said following the 2008 “Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control” the Government decided to take forward proposals in its Health Bill for a ban on the display of tobacco products at point of sale and a ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines – but did not take forward proposals for plain packs.
The company, which also owns the Camel and Silk Cut brands, asserted it was therefore clear a proposal for plain packaging of cigarettes was “rejected” in 2008 and added other bodies had accepted this was the case – including ASH, which stated in 2010 tobacco companies “saw off proposals to require plain packaging before the Health Bill reached Parliament”.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acknowledged the evidence presented by JTI but also considered the word “rejected” implied a “stronger and more definitive action” taken by the Government than appeared to be the case and that some of the quotes from ministers provided could be interpreted differently.
The regulator contacted the Department of Health to clarify the Government’s position, which stated while the proposal was not pursued in the new legislation introduced in 2008, the Government had kept open the potential for it to be considered at a later date and had committed to keeping the position under active review.
The ASA concluded the claims in the ads gave a “misleading impression” of the position and action taken at that time by the Government and the evidence provided by JTI was “not conclusive”.
A JTI spokesman told Marketing Week: “JTI disagrees with the ASA’s decision. Whilst we will not run the advertisements again we are considering our options.”