"Fish hook" (Department of Health)

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774 complaints

ASA verdict: Upheld

What the ASA said:

This hard hitting multi-media campaign from the Department of Health was designed to confront smokers with the controlling nature of their addiction to encourage them to stop smoking. The ads encouraged smokers to ‘get unhooked’, but complaints generated by the emotive images used in the TV, national press, poster and internet ads were that they were offensive, frightening and distressing. The poster ads in particular generated the most complaints with objections that they could frighten and distress children.

We felt that the ads were unlikely to cause serious offence or distress to adult viewers. However, despite the TV ads being given an ex-kids restriction, we felt that two of the TV ads were likely to frighten and distress older children and we upheld complaints on this basis. Similarly, the posters had appeared in places where they could easily be seen by children and complaints were upheld in this media also.