Rizla cigarette adverts banned for appealing to under-18s and suggesting smoking is safe

Imperial Tobacco denies the advertisements have a link to smoking culture or smoking endorsement messaging

Wednesday 13 February 2019 01:01
The adverts were intended to emphasise Rizla's new packaging
The adverts were intended to emphasise Rizla's new packaging

Two Rizla cigarette adverts have been banned after it was found that they appealed to under-18s and suggested smoking was safe.

The first of the two posters for Imperial Tobacco’s rolling papers showed two people dressed as a security safe standing in front of a wall with the word "safe" written on it.

The other had two people with cardboard boxes over their heads standing in front of a wall with the word "protect" written on it.

Imperial Tobacco denied the advertisements had a link to smoking culture or smoking endorsement messaging. They added the adverts 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.

It did not consider the illustrations, which were designed to depict a helmet and a safe, to be cartoon-like or appealing to children. The use of graffiti was also intended to target adult consumer groups who were urban, creative and expressive, it claimed.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received four complaints that the advertisements suggested that smoking was safe and were likely to appeal to and encouraged those under the age of 18 to start smoking.

They 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.

The watchdog 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.


"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,” the ASA said. "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.

A third advert, which was posted on Rizla UK's Facebook page asking people to like and share it, was not banned.

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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."

Additional reporting from Press Association

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