Govt’s ‘distressing’ anti-smoking ad cleared

A Government anti-smoking advertisement showing a cancerous tumour growing on a cigarette as it’s smoked has been cleared by the advertising watchdog despite 165 complaints the spot was too graphic.


The Dare created spot, which launched in January, was an attempt to shock smokers into quitting by warning that smoking 15 cigarettes could cause a mutation that leads to cancerous tumours.

Complainants, however, argued the ad was unsuitable to be shown at times when children could be watching and that it was distressing to those diagnosed with cancer. Others argued it was scaremongering by the Government.

The Advertising Standards Authority rejected the complaints, arguing the shock tactics used were justified. The watchdog’s Council also noted that an “ex-kids”rating had been applied to the ad, which means the spot can not be shown during children’s programming.

“We understood that the ads might be unsettling for some, and especially for those who may have been diagnosed with cancer or who have lost friends or loved ones to the disease. But overall, the important health message was justified and the hard hitting imagery in the ads was suitable given the serious nature of the issue being addressed, “ a spokesman for the ASA says.

The Department of Health will be buoyed by the ASA’s decision to green-light the ad after switching back to hard-hitting ads detailing health harms for the first time in eight years.

It is still facing a rebuke, however, for a separate NHS Smoke Free campaign after 18 complaints it was misleading. The veracity of the claim: “When you smoke, the chemicals you inhale cause mutations in your body and mutations are how cancer starts.  Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation. If you could see the damage you’d stop” is to be investigated to determine if it can be substantiated.

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