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The Drum

Rizla ads banned by ASA for suggesting smoking is safe

Rizla ads banned by ASA for suggesting smoking is safe

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a series of Imperial Tobacco's outdoor ads for suggesting smoking is safe and for appealing to under-18s.

The British tobacco company was pulled up for three ads that promoted Rizla rolling papers – two outdoor ads and a Facebook post from October 2018.

Of the outdoor posters, one featured two people dressed as a security safe, stood in front of a wall which has the word 'safe' graffitied on it.

Next to the pair, the text reads 'Fold. Tuck. Protect. All New Packaging. Never Settle.'

Another outdoor ad was pulled up, which featured two people with boxes on their heads. In a similar layout to the first ad, the graffiti behind reads 'protect.'

It has also been rapped for a post on Rizla's Facebook page after the ASA received a complaint that it would encourage customers to start smoking.

The text read: “It’s competition time! For a chance to win an amazing pack of Rizla goodies all you need to do is…1) Like our page 2) Comment below and tell us what you love most about Rizla. Don’t forget to share this with a friend who loves Rizla as much as you do!”

Rizla was challenged for the use of the word 'safe', which the ASA said could be misread. Another of the complaints regarded whether the outdoor ads appealed to under-18s, while the Facebook post was challenged for encouraging people to start smoking and for inappropriately targeting.

Imperial Tobacco said had taken care to avoid association with or depiction of smoking in its ads.

It added the use of the word 'safe' in the first ad referred to the improvements Rizla had made to its product packaging, and the ad "intended to emphasise that Rizla papers were more likely to be kept physically safe inside the new packaging".

It felt that because of public awareness to the health risks associated with smoking, the average consumer would not associate 'safe' in relation to the practice of smoking.

In regards to the appealing to under-18s, the brand said it believed the illustrations, which were designed to depict a helmet and a safe, would not appeal to children as it had clearly used real-life adult models.

It said it used graffiti to target adult consumer groups who were urban, creative and expressive.

The company noted the Rizla UK page has an age gate in place, which meant that only Facebook users with a profile age of 18 or above could enter the page or view the content. For this reason, the ASA decided to not take things further.

The ASA did, howevrr, uphold the complaint made about both the outdoor ads. It found issue with the word 'safe' in the first as, due to the context, it felt people would interpret the word 'safe' to suggest it alluded to the practice of smoking, rather than as a reference to the packaging of the new product.

The ASA considered that the use of graffiti in both ads, and the term 'safe' – a slang phrase commonly used by young people – would resonate with under-18s.