Tobacco giant JTI has launched a campaign against government proposals to move tobacco into plain packaging, branding the consultation process “fundamentally flawed”.

The campaign breaks this weekend in the national press with a trio of ads putting across three main arguments:  ‘The evidence that removing branding will reduce smoking would fit on the back of a cigarette pack’; ‘Evidence for the plain pack consultation. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on’; and ‘Isn’t the right choice plain obvious?’

It comes the day after the Department of Health extended the consultation period until 10 August.

“There are worrying indications that the DoH has already decided to introduce plain packaging despite the lack of evidence which exists and this is a very serious concern to us – and, I am sure, to government,” said JTI UK MD Martin Southgate.

He said the consultation was “flawed” because experts chosen to help the DoH make its decision would also be preparing their own responses to the consultation.

“Not only is there a lack of evidence that plain packaging will work but also very concerning is that the consultation process ignores the government’s own guidelines on the choice and selection of experts,” Southgate said.

“In addition, a systematic review has been completed but it does not cover smoking behaviour, which it needs to.”

The campaign was just “phase one” in the tobacco giant’s move against plain packaging, Southgate added. Although he hoped the company would not have to go as far as a legal challenge, “as a legitimate manufacturer, we will be prepared to defend ourselves”.

JTI is part of a legal challenge against plain packaging in Australia.