JTI UK is to challenge an Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruling that one of its adverts against plain packaging was ‘misleading’.

The advert, which appeared in the national press in April 2013, included an email from the UK Department of Health to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

The email featured text which said: “I work on the UK Government’s Tobacco Policy Team … you will be aware that the UK Government is considering the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products. As I’m sure you’re aware, one of the difficulties regarding this is that nobody has done this and therefore, there isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works.”

Text from JTI beneath the e-mail from stated: “We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.”

Thirteen complainants, including Cancer Research UK, UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) objected to the ad.

Ten complainants challenged whether the email, which pre-dated the introduction of standardised packaging in Australia, misleadingly implied that, at the time the ad appeared, there existed no evidence to support the introduction of plain packaging.

Seven complainants also challenged whether the ad promoted a tobacco product.

JTI said it believed the advert made it clear that the statement related to the situation in 2011. The email was reproduced in its entirety and included the date the email was sent, it said.

However, the ASA decided to uphold the complaint and the advert cannot be shown again its current form.

JTI’s UK managing director Daniel Torras slammed the decision.

“Hard evidence in the context of the advert could only have meant real-life, practical evidence. This did not exist in May 2011 as no country in the world had introduced plain packaging. Nor did it exist at the time the advert appeared in April 2013 as nothing had then emerged from Australia,” he said.

“It was not misleading to reprint, in full, an email written by DH. With just over a week to go before the end of the third UK consultation on plain packaging, there still isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works,” he added.

Torras also criticised the ASA for deciding to publish the news of its decision at this particular point in time.

“That it has taken the ASA over a year to reach a decision is surprising; that it has finally chosen to publish it now, during a public consultation on the same issue, is staggering,” he added.

JTI has referred the decision to the ASA’s Independent Reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips.

The second complaint was not upheld.