One national press ad, created by Big Al’s Creative Emporium, featured an unmarked packet of cigarettes.
The text stated: "Why make it easier for criminals to make a packet? In the current economic climate, the black market in tobacco is booming. Standardising packs will make them easier to fake and cost taxpayers millions more than the £3 billion lost in unpaid duty last year."
Another execution with similar imagery stated: "The black market in tobacco is booming. Last year it cost the Treasury £3bn in unpaid duty."
The ASA received one complaint from Cancer Research arguing that the claim that "the black market in tobacco is booming" was misleading. The charity pointed to an HMRC report from 2011 which stated that "the illicit tobacco market had been reduced significantly over the last decade". Cancer Research also argued that the "£3bn lost in unpaid duty" was an exaggeration.
The ASA ruled that describing the tobacco market as "booming" would lead consumers to believe that the illicit market was on the increase but as there was no evidence to substantiate this, the body concluded that the statement were likely to mislead.
It also found that Gallaher had taken upper estimates to arrive at the £3bn figure and that this also included revenue losses for HRT products. On this basis, the ASA upheld the complaints and said that both ads could not be shown again.
Paul Williams, the corporate affairs director of Gallaher Tobacco-owner JTI, said: "The figure of £3bn has been widely used by many parties, including HMRC officials, to describe the loss in revenue to Government. Whatever word or figure is used to describe the scale of he issue, it is a huge problem which should be a concern to all.
"Whilst we will not publish the ad in question again, we disagree with those who appear to wish to close down this debate by challenging the semantics of our statements, rather than the substance," Williams concluded.