Wednesday 30 July 2014

Ad busting

Some very funny business at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Back in early 2012, the Department of Health produced a peculiar television advert showing tumours growing from a cigarette. This was supposed to illustrate the claim that "every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation".

This always seemed to me to be an odd way to encourage people to quit smoking. Quite obviously, 15 cigarettes is not enough to cause cancer and even the least numerate viewer could work out that, even if true, millions of smoking-related 'mutations' do not turn into malignant tumours.

But is it true? That's the question Angela Harbutt, who used to work for the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, wanted to know when she filed a complaint with the ASA in January 2013. Now, 18 months later, the whole story can be told. Put very simply, the ASA brought in some experts and ruled that the advertisement was scientifically insupportable. They ruled that it was scientifically insupportable not once, not twice, but three times.

And then, at the eleventh hour, the Department of Health intervened and the ASA changed its mind. The whole story is quite bizarre and I won't attempt to relate it in full. Instead, I'll direct you to Liberal Vision and Taking Liberties for the full details. Do have a read.

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