Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Healthcare
12 February 2019updated 13 Feb 2019 12:00am

Rizla ads banned for calling smoking products “safe”

The ASA has asked Imperial Tobacco to remove posters for violating the CAP code.

By Will Dunn

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has told Imperial Tobacco to withdraw poster advertisements and a Facebook ad for Rizla cigarette papers after multiple complaints that the adverts described smoking as “safe” and concerns that they were aimed at the young.

The ads featured two people dressed as bank safes standing in front of a wall on which the word “safe” was written in very large letters. Members of the public complained that this suggested that smoking was safe, and that use of the word “safe” to mean “good” indicated that ad was designed to appeal to under-18s.

Imperial Tobacco responded that the adverts were designed to draw attention to new packaging which it says protects the cigarette papers from damage. The ASA, however, concluded that “use of the word ‘safe’ suggested that smoking was safe, and this could encourage people to smoke or increase their consumption”, and that “the term ‘safe’… a slang term commonly used by young people, was associated with youth culture and would resonate with and appeal to people under 18. We also considered that the presentation of two people standing in bold coloured cardboard cut-out objects… were shown in a playful manner and which was likely to appeal to people under 18.”

The ASA also received complaints about adverts for Rizla cigarette papers on Facebook, but these complaints were not upheld.

In 2016 the NHS recorded 77,900 deaths in England as having been attributable to smoking, which remains the UK’s single largest cause of avoidable death and preventable illness.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

An advert for Rizla cigarette papers was banned in 2003 after the ASA found that it condoned smoking cannabis, and in 2014 the ASA banned Smoke Spots, an app and a website created by Imperial Tobacco that drew complaints from members of the public and Cancer Research UK and which the ASA found to be “harmful and irresponsible”.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery