Private Eye weighs in against tobacco industry’s attack on plain packaging

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 01 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2776
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

The satirical magazine Private Eye couldn’t resist sending up Japan Tobacco International’s efforts to derail the UK government’s plan to reduce the take-up of smoking among young people by introducing plain packaging.

The antismoking group Ash has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about an advertisement from JTI (the trading name for Gallagher) that has appeared recently in the national press. The advertisement features an email from the Department of Health to the Australian government and highlights in pink the phrase “there isn’t any hard evidence to show that it [plain packaging] works.” The advertisement added, “We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.”

But Ash said that the email was two years out of date and was misleading. Last April a systematic review commissioned by the Department of Health for England concluded that there was “strong evidence” that plain packaging would help to reduce the prevalence of smoking.

In the fake Private Eye advertisement the company “Big Fags Inc” declared (also highlighted in pink), “We are trying to pretend this [plain packaging] won’t work and that marketing and advertising aren’t a big deal.” The strapline to the advertsisement read, “We couldn’t look more deperate if we tried.”

In March the advertising watchdog banned another campaign by Gallagher claiming that there was “no credible evidence” that plain packets would reduce smoking in young people. And in April another ruling said that Gallagher had misled the public in advertisements claiming that plain packaging would be easier to fake and that switching to plain packets would cost taxpayers “more than the £3bn [€3.6bn; $4.7bn] in unpaid duty last year” because of increased sales on the black market.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2776

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