Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.


What is Phototherapy?
What is SAD?
What types of claim are likely to be acceptable?
What types of claim are likely to be a problem?
What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought?

What is Phototherapy?

Phototherapy, also sometimes known as Light Therapy, involves the shining of light onto the body or face.  It works on the principle that natural daylight which is lacking at certain times of year (particularly in winter months) can be replenished using artificial light.  

What is SAD?

CAP understands that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as ‘winter depression’, is a mood disorder whose sufferers experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer. It reoccurs year after year with normal mental health throughout most of the year. The most difficult months for SAD sufferers tends to be January and February, with symptoms often subsiding during the spring

What types of claim are likely to be acceptable?

CAP accepts that products which emit light between 3,000 and 10,000 lux, can relieve the following symptoms of SAD: fatigue or additional fatigue experienced in winter; craving and consumption of additional carbohydrates; feeling anti-social and ‘winter blues’. Marketers offering Phototherapy who wish to make similar claims are advised to hold evidence that their therapy uses the same lux as those products for which these claims have already been deemed acceptable, or hold robust clinical evidence to support the claims (12.1). 

What types of claim are likely to be a problem?

The ASA and CAP have not yet been provided with evidence that Phototherapy can help with skin conditions and such claims would need to be supported by robust clinical evidence.

What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought?

Because SAD can sometimes be associated with depression (a condition for which medical supervision should be sought), there is a risk that presenting a device or treatment for SAD as being a treatment for depression could be seen to discourage essential medical treatment unless that treatment is carried out under the supervision of suitability qualified health professional (Rule 12.2). 

Marketers advertising therapies should therefore take care to ensure that their ads do not include direct or implied references to depression (The Sound Learning Centre Ltd, 21 September 2011 and Eudemon International Ltd, 3 June 2009).

Updated 23 May 2018

 


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