Ad watchdog bashes plain packs claims

THE ADVERTISING watchdog has cracked down on a campaign against plain cigarette packaging for the second time in as many months.

Today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will announce that it has upheld a complaint made against Japan Tobacco International (JTI), the firm leading a marketing blitz opposing plain packaging.

In its ruling, the ASA says that a series of JTI newspaper adverts claiming that plain packaging will lead to a huge increase in tobacco’s black market was misleading and inflated how much illicit tobacco cost the Treasury in unpaid taxes.

The adverts claimed that “the black market in tobacco is booming” when the trade was in decline, and that it cost the Treasury £3bn a year, which was at the top of estimates.

Tobacco groups are opposing the potential introduction of plain packs, saying cartons would be easier to fake thus encouraging illicit trade.

Responding to the ruling, which will prevent it from repeating the claims, JTI said: “Whatever word or figure is used to describe the scale of this issue, it is a huge problem.”

Last month the ASA upheld a separate complaint about JTI, saying an advert had given the impression the policy had been dropped.