Two ads for Imperial Tobacco’s Rizla cigarette rolling papers have been banned for appealing to under 18s and suggesting that smoking is safe.
The first of two posters, both seen in October, showed two people dressed as a security safe standing in front of a wall with the word “safe” graffitied on it.
The second featured two people with cardboard boxes over their heads standing in front of a wall graffitied with the word “protect”.
A third ad, a post on Rizla UK’s Facebook page asking people to like and share it, was not banned.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received four complaints that the ads suggested that smoking was safe, were likely to appeal to under 18s and encouraged people to start smoking.
Imperial Tobacco said their ads had no links with smoking culture or smoking endorsement messaging, adding that those in question were developed to show a change of packaging to existing adult Rizla users.
The first ad was intended to emphasise that Rizla papers were more likely to be kept physically safe inside the new packaging and it was “unlikely” that the average consumer would make any other association given public awareness of the health risks associated with smoking, the company said.
They did not consider the illustrations, which were designed to depict a helmet and a safe, to be cartoon-like or appealing to children, and the use of graffiti was also intended to target adult consumer groups who were urban, creative and expressive.
The ASA said many people would interpret the use of the word “safe” to suggest that smoking with Rizla rolling papers was safe, rather than solely as a reference to the packaging of the new product.
It found that the use of graffiti in both ads, and the term “safe”, which was also a slang term commonly used by young people, was associated with youth culture and would resonate with and appeal to people under 18.
It said: “Because the use of the word ‘safe’ suggested that smoking was safe, and this could encourage people to smoke or increase their consumption, we concluded the ad breached the code.
“We also considered that the presentation of two people standing in bold coloured cardboard cut-out objects which also corresponded to the colour of the Rizla packaging … were shown in a playful manner and which was likely to appeal to people under 18.”
The ASA ruled that the two poster ads must not appear again in their current form, adding: “We told Rizla to ensure that their ads did not suggest that smoking was safe and not to feature content that was likely to appeal to children under 18.”
A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco said: “We take our obligations regarding UK advertising laws and the responsible marketing of our products extremely seriously.
“We have co-operated fully with the ASA in support of their inquiries.
“The intention of the advertisement campaign, which is no longer current, was to inform existing adult Rizla users about improvements made to Rizla packaging.
“Nevertheless, we respect the ASA’s ruling and take careful note of their assessment.”