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Ban all MISLEADING, deceptive advertising
I noted with interest Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan’s call for legislation to ban the advertising of “miracle cures” by “conmen” who get rich by preying on the “poor, destitute and gullible.” While I have no problem with the senator’s call, it must be extended to the misleading and deceptive advertising/labelling we see every day in the newspapers, on television and in the supermarkets.
The gist of the senator’s argument is that these people claim they can cure some disease, take your money and do not deliver on their promises. But is this any different from “legitimate” practitioners/institutions who lead you to believe they can treat your diseases but cannot live up to their claims since they can treat only your symptoms?
They knowingly make you do unnecessary “tests,” prescribe unnecessary drugs or recommend unnecessary surgery just to maximise their profits. Worse, they may maim or kill you by gross incompetence (botched surgery, wrong drugs or over-radiation) and there’s very little you can do about it. So, senator, bring on the legislation to deal with these, too.
What about those who show frightening statistics for heart disease, say, and then claim/imply you can be “heart healthy” (a meaningless term) if you take their product, even though no one has ever shown that this product is beneficial in any way? Isn’t this preying on the “poor and ignorant” who cannot discern the subtleties in the use of advertising language? Surely, you must ban them, too.
No one disputes that there is a worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Here, the Minister of Health, Dr Fuad Khan, is championing the “fight the fat” campaign. The problem can be traced directly to the over-consumption of “sugared” drinks like soft drinks and pack “juices” (which usually contain more sugar than the juice of the real fruit), especially by young children. Yet, instead of warning us of the dangers of consuming these drinks, one advertiser tells us to “open happiness.”
What could be more misleading than that? Senator Ramkhelawan exhorted Minister Khan to “do something” about the “conmen.” Since the long-term danger of consuming these drinks is far more pervasive and real than the “miracle cures,” surely the senator would fight to have legislation which requires “The Minister of Health advises that consuming this product can be dangerous to your health” warning on the bottles/packs and in the shops where they are sold.
Of course, the warning would be required on almost all the so-called “snacks” that we buy. On the topic of juices, a common ploy is to have an attractive picture of the fruit (oranges or cranberries, say) on the bottle/ pack, giving the impression that what’s in the bottle/pack is mostly the real juice of the fruit. In real-ity, it’s usually less than five per cent.
Surely, “truth in labelling” requires that the amount of juice be displayed prominently on the label and I expect that the legislation demanded by the senator will address that. These are just a few examples but I think you get the idea. When you start thinking about it, many of the products we buy will require warnings. For instance, any product that contains polyunsaturated fats (like vegetable oils) should contain a warning about the dangers of these fats (they suppress the immune system and are known to start or promote cancer).
Similar remarks apply to things like aerosol sprays, sun block (do not put on your skin anything you won’t put in your mouth) and many so-called health products. While I share the senator’s concerns, it will be short-sighted to go after the “miracle cures conmen” only. Every day we are inundated with products and services that are inimical to our health and pockets. I’m all for “truth in advertising/labelling” but it must be across the board.
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