Japan Tobacco International (JTI) made false claims that could not be substantiated according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today (Wednesday).

The ASA has ruled that a series of JTI advertisements saying the government had rejected the plain packaging of cigarettes in 2008 due to a lack of credible evidence was misleading.

The decision is in response to objections made by Cancer Research UK, ASH and ASH Scotland.

There is indeed compelling evidence that slick and colourful designs of tobacco packaging encourage young people to smoke. Cigarette packaging is also shown to distract from health messages about the dangers of smoking.

JTI has also been told it cannot claim that the Government had categorically “rejected” the policy of plain packaging for cigarettes in 2008.

Department of Health officials clarified that it was not accurate to describe the earlier decision as an outright rejection of the plain packaging proposal. They advised that while plain, standardised packs were not introduced in 2008/2009 legislation, the Government had kept open the potential for it to be considered at a later date and committed to keeping the position under active review.

JTI launched a £2m advertising campaign* in July 2012 opposing plans to put all tobacco products in plain, standardised packs of uniform size, shape and design.

The public consultation was launched in April 2012 and closed in August 2012.

The ASA has ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said: “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.

“This is why the Department of Health is right to protect its discussions about public health from the tobacco companies. It’s a shame that a misleading advert was able to reach such a large audience in several national newspapers thanks to the unprecedented millions of pounds JTI has committed to its campaign opposing standard packs. 157,000 11 to 15 year olds start smoking in the UK each year so it’s vital we continue to do all we can to prevent another generation becoming addicted to tobacco. Plain, standardised packs won’t stop everyone from starting smoking, but it will give millions of children one less reason to start.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.


Read more about Cancer Research UK’s “Setting the Standard” campaign  to raise awareness of the consultation and allow the public to show support for standardising packaging and removing glitzy and alluring designs.

A copy of the adjudication is available under embargo from the Advertising Standards Authority or the Cancer Research UK press office.

* Three variations of wording appeared across the UK media

  • Text in ad (a) stated “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?”
  • Text in ad (b) stated “Everyone, us included, wants to prevent minors from starting to smoke.  So, given the importance of the issue, why is the Department of Health consulting on a proposal which, a) has no evidence to support it and, b) common sense says won’t work?  In 2008, the same policy was rejected when it was found to have no credible evidence …”
  • Text in ad (c) stated “This same policy was rejected in 2008 because there was no credible evidence.”