Vernon Coleman and the Advertising Standards Authority

Vernon Coleman

Individuals eager to discredit me for their own personal reasons have recently put on the internet old news relating to the Advertising Standards Authority (and which comes largely from the 1980s and 1990s) and have claimed that I have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. This material has appeared on a Wikipedia page which carries my name.

The claims are at best misleading.

(The claim that I have been `banned’ is absurd since the ASA does not have the power to ban anyone from doing anything.)

What is true is that the Advertising Standards Authority (which is a private body with no legal powers which has itself been reported to the Office of Fair Trading) has in the past objected to several advertisements bought for books of mine and has attempted (always unsuccessfully) to ban those advertisements.

The following account of the alleged bans appears in my book Coleman’s Laws, which was first published in 2006.

`Advertisements for my book How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You were banned on the grounds that my claim that ‘the person most likely to kill you is not a murderer or a drunken motorist but your doctor’ was unfair to doctors.


In the UK each year:
* around 859 people are murdered
* around 2663 people are killed in road accidents

And how many patients are killed by doctors? At a conservative estimate the figure is well over 20,000. The official figures show that there were 980,000 ‘patient safety incidents’ in the National Health Service hospitals in 2004, and that over 2,000 patients died because of cock-ups. These are the official figures and are an absurd under-estimate of the real size of the problem. No one working in the NHS (whether a doctor, nurse or administrator) is likely to report a side effect or error unless they feel they have to. The American style enthusiasm for litigation is the reason for this shyness.

The advertisement was banned by a small private organisation called the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA).

Where, you are no doubt asking, does the ASA get its money from?

Mainly from large companies.

Possibly including drug companies.

The ASA also banned an advertisement which simply invited readers to visit my website to study the facts about animal experiments. The evidence supporting the advertisement was readily available on my website and included evidence given to the House of Lords.

The ASA claimed to have received one complaint (which may have been from a vivisector or vivisection supporter). They refused to identify the complainant.

The ASA’s report criticising the advertisement is bizarre. They were advised to study the evidence on my website. In their report they admitted that they had viewed some of the content (they actually use the word ‘some’) but were unable to find what they were looking for.

So they decided that the advertisement was misleading and banned it.

The ASA seems to me to be riding roughshod over my fundamental rights as an individual, an author and an advertiser in the interests of protecting large, international industries which can quite well look after themselves.

Some people think that the ASA is more concerned with protecting big business than the interests of consumers.

Last year the organisation took no action at all against the five advertisements which had caused the most offence to ordinary consumers.

Five advertisements which had between them attracted more than 3,600 angry complaints were left untouched by the ASA All these advertisements had been placed by large companies.

On the other hand the ASA has consistently ruled against advertisements placed by anti-vivisectors — even though only one complaint may have been received.

For example, when the Research Defence Society (an organisation set up and funded to defend vivisection) complained about two antivivisection leaflets of mine, the ASA quickly banned them. Amazingly, one of the people on the ASA committee which banned the leaflets was the vice chairman of L’Oreal (UK) Ltd, a large cosmetics company which has in the past been criticised by anti-vivisectors for its use of ingredients tested by means of animal experiments.’

The ASA also attempted (unsuccessfully) to ban advertisements for my book Food for Thought which mentioned that the book contained evidence linking meat to cancer. After the ASA issued its ban, both The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK published the advertisement in full.

The complaint to the ASA was made by the meat trade, and in defence I offered the ASA no less than 26 scientific papers which proved that meat causes cancer. (The 26 scientific papers are listed in my book Food for Thought’. However, the ASA refused to look at the evidence I offered and ruled in favour of the meat industry.

The meat industry also made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (long defunct) about an article I had written linking the eating of meat to certain common types of cancer.

To my astonishment, the Press Complaints Commission refused to look at the evidence and found for the meat industry.

It will be of interest to readers that the British Government, the United States Government and the WHO have, in recent years, all confirmed what I wrote – that eating meat causes cancer.

Everything I wrote was absolutely true.

Copyright Vernon Coleman April 10th 2020