The manufacturer believed it had found a loophole in the legislation, introduced earlier this year, when it launched a promotion last week giving away cigarette cards depicting former Superkings ad campaigns.
But The Grocer has learned that the DoH, which drew up the new laws, believes the push is illegal. A spokesman for the department said: “It is our view that this is a breach of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.”
He added: “The cards would meet the Act’s definition of a tobacco ad, and they would be ‘published’ by being supplied to smokers in packets.”
She added that under section nine of the Act, manufacturers were prohibited from distributing “products and coupons”, which could include the cards, with the intention of promoting tobacco.
However, Iain Watkins, trade communications specialist at Imperial Tobacco, defended its position. “We are not looking for loopholes in the legislation. Imperial Tobacco does not believe that this activity contravenes any part of the Act.”