The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has partly upheld a complaint about a newspaper ad on fluoride in water on the grounds it was socially irresponsible.
The newspaper advertisement for Fluoride Free New Zealand showed a photo of a child drinking a glass of water with the heading “Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that Reduces Children’s IQ”. Below the photo was the heading “International Experts share latest research linking fluoride to neurological damage and other harms.”
The ASA says it received seven complaints about the ad. The complainants raised concerns it was misleading because it exaggerated the neurological effects of fluoride on children and used fear to spread a counter-scientific message that fluoride is dangerous to children.
Fluoride Free New Zealand said the purpose of the advertisement was to encourage people to attend a presentation on the toxicity of fluoride and they also felt a social responsibility to advise the general public about recent scientific research on fluoride. The group provided references to research to substantiate their claim.
The ASA’s complaints board said the advocacy advertisement was not likely to mislead as the advertiser did provide a level of substantiation for the claims made, and, in the context of an advocacy advertisement, this was deemed sufficient.
However, the board said the advertisement unjustifiably played on fear and was therefore socially irresponsible. Accordingly, it ruled the complaint was upheld, in part.