Plain Packaging For Cigarettes: Row As Tobacco Giant Launches Advertising Campaign

A tobacco giant has ramped up its lobbying against plain cigarette packaging - challenging the Department of Health with a national advertising campaign.

Using material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) took out a full-page advert in Monday's Daily Telegraph to accuse the government of having no evidence for its proposals.

Australia has already brought in plain packaging

It published a 2011 letter from a DoH official to the Australian government, which acknowledged that "there isn't any hard evidence to show that it works."

The letter was dismissed by the Department of Health, which said evidence and research had developed in the past 18 months.

And campaign group Ash said it was "disingenuous to say the least."

It comes as Scotland looks to be the first part of the UK to outlaw adverts on cigarette packets, in an attempt to make them less attractive to customers.

JTI used FOI laws to get access to correspondence from the DoH to its counterparts in Australia, which has already brought in plain packets, which asked about the lack of "hard evidence".

"We couldn't have put it better ourselves," it wrote.

Although tobacco advertising is banned in the UK, the industry is free to take out adverts in order to comment on topical issues, the Advertising Standards Agency said.

Critics have previously raised concerns over the extent of lobbying taking place by the tobacco industry.

Deborah Arnott, Ash chief executive, told The Huffington Post UK: "This is such rubbish, and it's dated over 18 months ago.

"They are doing quite a lot of lobbying work, but they are using exactly the same arguments on this as they've used on every other tobacco control measure."

The industry had to say the measure would be ineffective because they could not argue that stopping smoking would be bad for business, she said.

A bitter battle is being waged on whether plain packaging should be introduced. The public consultation attracted hundreds of thousands of responses.

A Department of Health spokesperson said a decision would be made this year on whether to press ahead.

A department spokeswoman said: "This correspondence is nearly two years old. Research and evidence have developed since then and continue to emerge.

"The government has an open mind on this issue and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information."

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