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Advertising board bans tobacco ads

Tags: smoking

A tobacco firm has had its latest advertising campaign banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ban on Japan Tobacco International's (JTI) ads was put in place after the ASA ruled the company was not conclusive in its claims that the Government dropped plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packets because of a lack of credible evidence of the health benefits.

JTI, which owns brands including Camel, Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut, claimed the Government initially dropped its plans in 2008.

A number of health charities complained about the advertising campaign, including Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), Ash Scotland and Cancer Research UK. After reviewing the ads, the ASA decided to ban them while a Government consultation on plain packaging is carried out.

One of JTI's ads said: "The anti-tobacco groups say that plain packs would prevent young people from starting to smoke. So why is there no evidence to support this claim in the Department of Health's consultation?

"Why, when the same policy was rejected in 2008, due to the same lack of evidence, has nothing credible emerged since?"

According to the charities, the claims in the ads were unsubstantiated and unfounded.

But JTI hit back, saying statements made by ministers in 2008 following the publication fo the consultation report, and in particular then health secretary Alan Johnson, showed the Government rejected the plan because of a lack of evidence to take it forward.

Mr Johnson was quoted as saying: "We believe that more needs to be done to develop our understanding of how the packaging of tobacco products influences smoking by both adults and young people. The Government will therefore keep tobacco packaging under close review."

In its ruling, the ASA said previous ministerial comments were not conclusive in showing the Government felt there was a lack of evidence over plain cigarette packaging. It ordered JTO to remove ads and said they must not reappear in their current form.

A statement from JTI said it was disappointed with the decision but confirmed it would not use the ads again.

Sarah Woolnough, spokeswoman for Cancer Research, said the charity was pleased with the outcome.

She added: "We are pleased that the ASA agreed that the claims in JTI's adverts could not be substantiated and are misleading. This decision again shows that the tobacco industry plays fast and loose with the facts. For years the tobacco industry denied the link between smoking and cancer, and has always opposed effective policies to cut smoking."

Copyright Press Association 2013

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