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Code for Advertising of Weight Management

1 September 2002

Introduction

All advertisements for weight management shall adhere to the Principles and Guidelines set out in this Code. The purpose of the Code is to ensure that advertising of weight management goods or services will be conducted in a manner which is socially responsible and does not mislead or deceive the consumer.

In interpreting the Code emphasis will be placed on the Principles and the spirit and intention of the Code. An advertisement which does or does not adhere to the letter of a particular Guideline nevertheless may or may not be in breach of the Code, depending on its compliance with the Principles and respect of the spirit and intention of the Code.

This Code applies to weight management products (including services) which include nutrition and exercise as features.

The Code does not apply to advertisements with therapeutic claims that advertise medicines, dietary supplements or medical devices; in those cases the Code for Therapeutic Advertising applies.

DEFINITION

For the purposes of this Code:

"Appropriate industry standards" are industry standards, guidelines or codes set by a recognised industry group and endorsed by the ASA.

Principle 1 - Advertisements should comply with the laws of New Zealand and appropriate industry standards.

Guidelines

1(a)

There are a number of laws which can affect slimming or weight loss advertising. Attention is drawn to the Medicines Act 1981, Medicines Regulations 1984, Food Act 1981, Food Regulations 1984 and the Dietary Supplement Regulations 1985.

1(b)

Particular attention is drawn to Section 4(e) of the Medicines Act 1981 which includes in the definition of 'therapeutic purpose' "Altering the shape, structure, size or weight of the human body". The effect of this is that a food, tablet or substance which reduces weight is classified as a "medicine" and an apparatus as a "medical device", thus bringing them within the ambit of the Medicines Act 1981. In such cases the Code for Therapeutic Advertising applies. Weight reduction programmes may not be subject to the Medicines Act 1981, but are subject to this Code. Advice from the Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting Services (TAPS) is strongly recommended.

Principle 2 - Advertisements should observe a high standard of social responsibility.

Guidelines

2(a)

Advertisements should not suggest or imply that consumers should have a diet which is not nutritionally well-balanced nor advertise a diet plan with less that 3500 kilojoules (800 calories) per day.

2(b)

Advertisements should not promise unrealistic or unsafe rapid weight reduction.

2(c)

Advertisements should neither be directed at, nor have strong or evident appeal to people under the age of 18 in particular.

2(d)

Advertisements should not suggest that it is desirable to be underweight or use underweight models. Models of generally accepted height/weight ratios should be used.

2(e)

Advertisements for intensive exercise programmes should encourage users to check with a doctor or professional advisor before commencing.

2(f)

Advertisements should not imply that the advertised product is a substitute for a balanced diet.

Principle 3 - Advertisements should not by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim, mislead or deceive or be likely to mislead or deceive consumers, abuse the trust of or exploit the lack of knowledge of consumers, exploit the superstitious or without justifiable reason play on fear.

Guidelines

3(a)

Claims for specific weight loss or reduction in body measurement should be typical, realistic, factual and able to be proved.

3(b)

Advertisements should not have depictions which unduly glamorise the product or portray unrealistic outcomes.

3(c)

Claims such as "Eat as much as you like", "Eat, eat, eat" or "Eat and get slim" are unacceptable.

Principle 4 - Advertisements should not claim or imply endorsement by any government agency, professional body, independent agency or person unless there is prior consent and the endorsement verifiable.

Guideline

4(a)

Testimonials, where not prohibited by law should be valid, current, documented and exceptional cases should be represented as such, not as typical. The claims in testimonials should be verifiable.

Note: Current law effectively prohibits testimonials (Section 58(1)(c) Medicines Act) in a large number of cases, so extreme care must be taken.

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Advertising Standards Authority New Zealand, PO Box 10-675, Wellington 6143. PH (04) 472 7852 FAX (04) 471 1785 Email asa@asa.co.nz