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.
Marketers of ionic bands or bracelets have made numerous claims about improving sports performance and sports recovery as well as stating that the products can help with a variety of health and medical conditions.
- what claims are likely to be problematic?
- What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought?
- What claims are likely to be acceptable?
The ASA and CAP have yet to be provided with convincing evidence that wearable ionic products can have an impact on the mind or body. As such, any claims that suggest there is health benefit to wearers are likely to be problematic unless the claims are supported by robust clinical evidence (12.1).
In 2011, a marketer claimed that their wearable ionic products could increase stamina, increase energy, enhance the immune system, reduce fatigue, boost metabolism, stabilise blood pressure, provide more focus, quicken response, improve flexibility, aid deeper sleep, improve mood, aid faster healing, improve balance, provide greater wellbeing, sharpen concentration, regulate seratonin levels, aid faster recovery, amplify strength and provide more focus. The ASA found that the evidence was not sufficiently robust and ruled that they were misleading (Ionic Balance, 26 October 2011).
Similarly, in 2015 the ASA assessed claims that an Ionic Balance Band was “SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN to improve: Flexibility Strength Balance Endurance" and which listed various other benefits including “decreased joint stiffness, increased blood flow, improved mood and normalising breathing rate”. The ASA ruled that the ads were misleading because the submitted evidence was not found to be sufficiently robust (Ionic Balance, 29 July 2015).
What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought?
Some marketers have claimed that the ionic products can help with a range of health problems, including conditions for which medical supervision should be sought (rule 12.2). The claims in one case included references to depression, impotence, bronchitis, asthma, arthritis, stroke, high blood pressure, gout, bronchitis and kidney problems. The ASA ruled that because treatment of the referenced conditions was not carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional, the ad irresponsibly discouraged consumers from seeking essential medical treatment (IntraMed Ltd, 11 February 2009).
What claims are likely to be acceptable?
Claims that the products can be used as a reminder to amend behaviour may be acceptable provided it is clear that the behaviour is carried out by the wearer. For example, a claim that seeing the wearable device acts to remind the wearer to amend their posture or warm up or down before and after exercise may be acceptable.
See also: Medical Devices