UK ad watchdog instructs firm not to link tanning to vitamin D levels

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Ridofranzi
©iStock/Ridofranzi

Related tags: Asa, Vitamin d, suntan, tanning

The UK’s advertising watchdog has ruled an advertisement stating the regular use of sunbeds can boost vitamin D production is in breach of the country’s advertising and marketing code.

The advertisement, posted on Facebook by UK-based tanning salon Basetan, claimed that "Sunbeds and sunlight are the main sources of your bodies [sic] vitamin D … vitamin D is essential for good health.

“It lowers the risk of everyday infections like cold and flu as well as more fatal diseases such as high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and depression,”​ the ad continues.

“… Studies suggest that regular, moderate Sunbed use will raise the levels of vitamin D in healthy adults by an average of 40% ... Tanning in a sensible manner can create a whole host of health benefits."

Medical conditions

In the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling​, the organisation expressed concern as to whether the ad discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

Details of ASA’s reasoning behind its final decision highlighted the ad references to “high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis”​ and “depression”,​ which are conditions wholly managed by qualified medical professionals.

“We had not seen evidence to show that Basetan’s tanning services were provided under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional,”​ ASA said.

“We considered that in the absence of such a professional the ad therefore discouraged essential medical treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.”

ASA also queried whether the ad misleadingly implied that using sunbeds was an efficient way to boost vitamin D production.

The Authority also raised concerns as to whether the ad was irresponsible as it encouraged the regular use of sunbeds to improve vitamin D levels.

ASA said the ad’s claims, "Sunbeds and sunlight are the main sources of your bodies [sic] Vitamin D”​ and “studies suggest that regular, moderate Sunbed use will raise the levels of Vitamin D in healthy adults by an average of 40%” ​implied sunbed use was the most efficient way to boost vitamin D levels.

Not a NHS recommendation

However, the form had not provided evidence to substantiate that claim and was thus misleading. ASA also pointed out that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) do not recommend sunbeds as vitamin D source.

The Authority pointed out that while the ad referred to “moderate use of sunbeds”​ and “tanning in a sensible manner”​, this did not counteract the ad’s overall message, which encouraged the regular use of sunbeds to improve vitamin D levels.

 “The ASA was concerned by Basetan's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code,”​ the ruling concludes.

“We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.”

In summing up ASA instructed Basetan that the ad was not to appear again in its current form adding that Basetan must ensure they do not discourage essential treatment for which medical supervision should be sought.

“We told them not to imply that sunbeds were the most efficient way to increase vitamin D levels and not to encourage consumers to improve their vitamin D levels through regular sunbed use.”

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