Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A post on Jetsun Sunbeds’ Facebook page, seen on 1 October 2020, was headed “jetsun tanning and beauty”. The ad showed a stylised image of a brain with various bright spots indicating brain activity; the interior of a sunbed and the exterior with the words “VITAMIN – FOR YOUR LIFE”. Text stated “Strengthen your immune system the natural way as its meant to be with sunlight [sic] the health benefits from sunlight are enormous and crucial to life on earth … Sunlight creates a hydrophilic action in your capillaries to move your blood round the body, important if you have heart disease … VitaminD3 may help strengthen your immune system. May help Prevention [sic] of all cause[s of] mortality [sic] … May improve brain function and production of Serotonin and melatonin and may help with alzheimer’s. Plus you look better and feel better”.
The complainant challenged whether linking claims for health benefits with the use of sunbeds was:
1. misleading; and
Response1. & 2. Jetsun Sunbeds said they had substantiation for their claims based on German New Medicine and the work of Professor Michael Horlick. They also referred to online videos by Dr Thomas Cowan and Dr Gerald Pollack which they believed to be proof from medical doctors of the positive effects of UV light on the bloodstream.
The ASA acknowledged that Jetsun Sunbeds had subsequently amended some claims so that they read more cautiously. Nevertheless, we considered consumers would interpret the ad to mean that there were health benefits to be gained from using sunbeds, which included improved brain function; strengthened immune system; improved blood circulation; benefits for those with heart disease; and help against all causes of death.
For health-related claims, we expected Jetsun Sunbeds to hold a high level of evidence, consisting of studies and trials which showed these benefits were obtained by humans from sunbeds. However, Jetsun Sunbeds had supplied no evidence of that kind. Of the online videos they referred to, Dr Thomas Cowan’s contained no references to health benefits from sunlight or sunbeds. Dr Gerald Pollack's spoke of the positive effect of sunlight, especially with the addition of heat, but there was no information about how a similar effect could be obtained from sunbeds. We therefore considered the information Jetsun Sunbeds had supplied to support the claims was not sufficient. We also took into account that NHS advice on the use of sunbeds was cautious. The advice warned that the ultraviolet (UV) rays given out by sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer and that many sunbeds gave out greater doses of UV rays than midday tropical sun. It linked to further information provided by the British Association of Dermatologists which stated "There are no potential health benefits that cannot be more safely and effectively obtained through other means, and any health benefits are debatable, thus such claims should be prevented". Given the absence of convincing evidence from Jetsun Sunbeds, and the caution urged by the advice from the NHS, we considered the claims that sunbeds provided health benefits were not substantiated.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.
Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
As explained above, NHS advice was cautious about the use of sunbeds. Given the potentially serious consequences for people who used sunbeds because they believed there would be health benefits, we concluded that, as well as not being substantiated, the claims were irresponsible.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Jetsun Sunbeds to ensure their ads did not misleadingly and irresponsibly claim or imply that health benefits were obtained from sunbeds unless they held adequate evidence.