Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for a tanning company, www.tanztanning.co.uk, stated under the heading "Tan Advice" and sub-header "The Truth About Tanning", "The Myth - Sunbed use causes skin cancer. Wrong! There is no scientific research to suggest that the use of sunbeds is accompanied with a higher risk of skin cancer".
1. The complainant challenged whether the claim was misleading and could be substantiated, because sunbeds were known for releasing ultraviolet (UV) rays that increased the risk of developing skin cancer.
2. The complainant challenged whether the ad was harmful, because it implied that the health risks associated with sun beds were exaggerated.
The Suntanz Company Ltd stated that they acknowledged sunbed use was not completely safe, but believed that when used in moderation there were associated health benefits. They commented that this was reflected in their advertising and that claims regarding the health benefits of using sunbeds had not been discredited.
Suntanz submitted a press release from the Sunlight Research Forum, a report from the Scientific Advisory Board of the Dutch Health Council. The press release noted that the board had advised that there was no guarantee that the use of "solariums" (sunbeds) was accompanied by a higher risk of skin cancer, provided they were used in moderation.
Suntanz also submitted an article from the European Sunlight Association, commenting on the decision of the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans. The article argued that, if used in moderation, UV-emitting tanning devices were beneficial.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that Suntanz were aware of the risks associated with excessive use of sunbeds and that they considered that, if used in moderation sunbeds were beneficial to health. However, we did not consider that the information that they provided in their response, which focused on the potential benefits of moderate sunbed use, substantiated the claim in the ad that there was no scientific research linking the use of sunbeds to an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Furthermore, we acknowledged that official UK organisations such as the NHS and Cancer Research UK advised that UV rays emitted from sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer, both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma. We therefore concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility), 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 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. (Substantiation), 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration) and 12.9 12.9 Marketers must not encourage consumers to use a product to excess and must hold proof before suggesting their product or therapy is guaranteed to work, absolutely safe or without side-effects (subject to rule 12.19). (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Suntanz Company Ltd that their advertising must not state or imply that sunbed use has not been linked with skin cancer.