JTI has hit back at a decision by the Advertising Standards Agency to ban one of its adverts for being misleading.

The Advertising Standards Agency today upheld two complaints against a JTI advert opposing the introduction of plain cigarette packs.

The ad had said the trade in black-market tobacco was “booming” and cost £3bn in lost tax revenue every year. But the ASA agreed with the complainant Cancer Research that an HMRC report from 2011 indicated the trade had been in decline. It also found the advert did not make it clear the £3bn figure was at the upper end of government estimates.

JTI said it would not publish the advert again, but argued that the £3bn figure had been widely used by many parties, including HMRC, to describe the loss in tax revenue caused by cigarette smuggling and other black-market activities.

“Whilst we will not publish the advertisement in question again, we disagree with those who appear to wish to close down this debate by challenging the semantics of our statements rather than the substance. We will continue to express our concerns, as it is essential that common sense and sound evidence prevail,” said Paul Williams, JTI’s head of corporate affairs.

JTI cited recent reports by HMRC that 1.5 tonnes of illicit tobacco had been found in a vehicle on the M4 while 30 million smuggled cigarettes were believed to be have been seized at Southampton container port. “Whatever word or figure is used to describe the scale of this issue, it is a huge problem which should be a concern for all,” Williams said.