ICO issue statement in relation to the launch of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) 7th Edition of their Code of Standards

ICO issue statement in relation to the launch of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) 7th Edition of their Code of Standards

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists has welcomed the revised Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland (7th Edition) by the ASAI which was launched in Dublin on September 17th 2015.  The updated Code set out by the independent, self-regulatory body comes into effect on March 1st 2016.

Among the key changes, the ASAI describes the Health & Beauty section (page 79) updates as follows;
The rules in this section are designed to ensure that marketing communications for medicines, medical devices, treatments, health-related products and beauty products receive the necessary high level of scrutiny.

While the ICO acknowledges and commends the commitment by the ASAI Review Group to address concerns on inappropriate direct to consumer medical advertising, the Colleges view remains unchanged; that the advertising of medical or surgical procedures must not be regulated in the same manner as other lifestyle consumables.

The ICO is of the view that medical advertising should concentrate on educating the public rather than as a medium being used to entice prospective patients through the use of attractive or reduced pricing, along with competitions and time-limited offers.  This concern is shared by many of our medical colleagues including dermatologists and plastics surgeons with whom we co-operated on a public meeting in relation to the issue and at a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children hearing.

In the interest of patient safety and transparency, regulation of direct-to-consumer medical advertising is urgently required. 

Standards and safeguards must apply equally in the public and private sector. It is essential for patients to receive balanced, unbiased information in order for them to be in a position to make fully informed decisions. 

Best patient outcomes must be held at the highest priority level and the Medical Training Bodies, the Medical Council, the Advertising Regulators, the Legal Professions and the Department of Health and Government must collaborate to ensure the appropriate actions are taken.

The ICO is recommending that the current regulatory system needs to be revised to provide clearer rules through which to hold advertisers to account and which reflect the changing market, particularly the huge growth in non-surgical procedures and the increasing use of digital marketing.

ICO E-cigarettes

The ICO welcomes the introduction of new rules for the advertising of e-cigarettes contained in the new ASAI Code of Standards.  The revised Code states that e-cigarette manufacturers must refrain from using marketing tools which appeal to under 18s, must not encourage non-smokers to use their product and must not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse electronic cigarettes.

The code also stipulates that e-cigarettes should not contain health or medicinal claims unless authorised to do so and may not use any design, imagery or logo style that may be associated with a tobacco brand.

In particular, the ICO welcome the requirement that e-cigarette manufacturers do not undermine the message that quitting tobacco use is the best health option for good health.  Currently, in the absence of regulation, no medical or pharmaceutical advice is given alongside the purchase of e-cigarettes.

After ageing, smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing the leading cause of sight loss in Ireland, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and it also increases the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

We endorse the views of our colleagues in the Irish Cancer Society, Irish Heart Foundation and Ash Ireland regarding the need for regulation of e-cigarettes and the introduction of Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Legislation.


23rd September 2015