The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled in favour of Fluoride Free New Zealand (FFNZ) regarding their controversial TV ads screened this winter. All of the complaints against the FFNZ TV ads were rejected.
FFNZ produced two TV adverts that aired on TV3 in July and August this year. The Advertising Standards Authority received a number of complaints that claimed that the information presented was “untrue” or “played on fear.”
The ASA outright rejected the complaints about the first ad, which listed all the “Countries That Do Not Fluoridate Their Water”, saying there was no basis to proceed with the complaint. The advert stated that 98% of Europe did not fluoridate, and only 4% of the world had water fluoridation.
Complaints were received from another six people who also claimed that the FFNZ ad about fluoride chemicals being “Toxic Waste” was “not factual” and “played on fear.” This advert described how the chemicals used to fluoridate 50% of New Zealand’s drinking water are hazardous.
The Advertising Standards Authority reviewed these claims and invited FFNZ and the Television Commercial Advertising Board (TCAB) to respond. The TCAB had originally reviewed and approved the adverts before they went to air on NZ television.
After careful consideration, the ASA ruled that the fluoridation adverts were factual and did not unjustifiably play on fear.
The TCAB provided a response to the ASA regarding these complaints:
“…Amongst the issues expressed by the complainants are… that they simply do not agree with its message.
“…If hexafluorosilic acid is toxic and a waste product, then the advertiser has every right to present that material fact. That fact is unimpeachably, scientifically provable and constitutes a truthful statement. Similarly, the use of protective clothing during the transport and handling of hexafluorosilic acid is definitely required; it is an immutable truth, a whole fact, and a truthful presentation. The opinion that fluoride should be removed from NZ drinking water is just that – an opinion. The expression of political opinion is protected by Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics, noting that robust debate is essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy. The advertiser has undertaken due responsibility in this commercial by making sure that all factual statements are correct, that the opinion of their organisation is clear (just look at their name), and by these measures that NZ viewers will not be misled or deceived.
“… Very similar complaints against other Fluoride Free NZ advertisements have reached ‘No Grounds to Proceed’ decisions, including complaints 12/272, 12/285 and 16/300.”
Mary Byrne, media spokesperson for Fluoride Free New Zealand said, “We are pleased with the ASA ruling but are becoming increasingly concerned with the antics of the pro-fluoridation activists. Complaining about these adverts shows they don’t even believe in freedom of speech. Especially the advert that simply tells people a few facts about how many countries have water fluoridation. How can anyone complain about that? These complaints strike at the heart of our democracy.”