ASA bans face-mask ads over 'misleading' and 'irresponsible' coronavirus claims

Watchdog said two ads were 'misleading, irresponsible and likely to cause fear without justifiable reason'.

ASA: one ad claimed to stop 94% of viruses
ASA: one ad claimed to stop 94% of viruses

The Advertising Standards Authority has hit out at a series of ads marketing face masks as protection against coronavirus, calling them "misleading", "irresponsible" and "likely to cause fear".

The regulator criticised five digital ads for masks sold by Novads OU, which did not respond to the ASA.

The executions, one of which appeared on The Sottish Sun and CNN online, showed pictures of a face mask and claimed that a mask was "one of the best ways to protect yourself" against coronavirus, other viruses and pollutants.

Novads claimed that its masks were "breakthrough" and offered "unparallelled [sic] protection". In one ad, it claimed the masks could stop "94% of viruses, bacteria, chemicals, pollution, dust, pollen and smoke".

It referred to the spread of the virus as being "barely controllable" and said this was a "terrifying time". 

The ASA noted in its ruling that Public Health England did not recommend the use of face masks as a means of protection from coronavirus. 

It also said Novads had used "alarmist" language that was likely to "exploit people’s fears".

The watchdog continued: "Particularly in a context where the relevant public health authority had not recommended face masks as a means of the public protecting themselves from coronavirus, we considered that the ads were misleading, irresponsible and likely to cause fear without justifiable reason." 

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