The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), chaired by renowned part-time floods expert Chris Smith, has bizarrely overturned a ruling by its executive criticising a “misleading” Department for Heath anti-smoking advert.
During an 18 month investigation, the ASA’s executive on three separate occasions upheld a complaint by smokers’ rights group Forest, which had accused a recent Department of Health ad campaign of being “misleading” and “omitting material information”. Yet this week the ASA council announced it was overruling its executive’s decision, instead suddenly finding that the Department of Health ad wasn’t misleading after all. Forest say the decision is “inexplicable”, accusing the Department of Health of “doing everything it could to derail our complaint”. A full timeline of how the ASA stonewalled the investigation before mysteriously contradicting itself can be read here.
The ASA at the same time decided to uphold complaints by tobacco control groups about Japan Tobacco’s 2013 advert which reprinted a 2011 Department of Health email about the lack of hard evidence for plain packaging. Given “hard evidence” in the context of the advert could only have meant real-life, practical evidence that did not exist in May 2011 as no country in the world had introduced plain packaging, it was hardly misleading to reprint, in full, an email written by the Department of Health. All this is occurring with just over a week to go before the end of the third UK consultation on plain packaging and there still isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works.
The ASA has a long track record of making rulings against less politically correct causes such as anti-gay marriage adverts, anti-environmentalist adverts, Fathers4Justice adverts and pro-hanging adverts. Asked by its executive to find against a politically correct government anti-smoking advert, however, the ASA council headed by Lord Smith vetoed the recommendation. Yet another example of the ASA’s politically correct agenda…