News just in from the Advertising Standards Authority, who have upheld a complaint lodged by health campaigners against a series of adverts run by tobacco giant Japan Tobacco International (JTI – makers of Benson and Hedges, Silk Cut and many others).
It seems that JTI has been actively misleading the public over “plain” standardised packaging for tobacco products – thus continuing a long tobacco industry tradition of lies and deceit to protect their product from regulation.
The context is that Australia has now banned corporate branding from all tobacco packs in order to reduce the attraction of smoking, particularly to young people. New Zealand intends to follow suit, and we are waiting for responses from both the Westminster and Holyrood Governments to a recent consultation on introducing the measure here.
While insisting that standardised packaging won’t work, the tobacco companies clearly don’t believe their own line and are throwing millions of pounds at opposing it. But while the industry and its allies are entitled to their opinions on the matter, facts remain facts – which is where JTI got into trouble.
Clearly rattled by the growing momentum in favour of introducing standardised packaging, JTI stumped up for a series of full-page newspaper adverts claiming that the UK Government previously rejected the idea because there was no evidence for it (see image above). Unfortunately for them that just isn’t true. ASH, ASH Scotland and CRUK challenged it and the ASA upheld the challenge and judged that the ads were misleading and must not be used again.
In actual fact there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that plain, standardised packaging will reduce the appeal of tobacco – produced by researchers from the universities of Stirling, Cambridge, London, Bristol, Nottingham, Sydney, Auckland, New York and South Carolina, amongst others.
All of which leaves us wondering if “grassroots” campaign Hands Off Our Packs (funded by tobacco companies including Gallaher Ltd, a JTI subsidiary) will be honest enough to stop asking people to write to their MPs with the same misleading claim?
Don’t hold your breath.