UPDATE, 4 Oct: A major multiple complaint has been submitted and a number of individuals have also been hard at work, so there's no need to submit any more ASA complaints.
Please continue contacting the high-street shops which stock the magazine - their contact details are at the bottom of the article. Don't forget to tell them about the kind of misleading advertisers their customers are being subjected to.
Making its debut on the high street recently has been What Doctors Don't Tell You, a magazine containing the most amazing collection of conspiracy theories, quack remedies and wacky medical advice ever to hit the news-stands.
Its appearance has generated a chorus of revulsion and disbelief in sceptic-land, but not everyone seems sure which parts of the magazine can be challenged, and which can't.
This is a short guide to nearly nearly all the advertisements in the October edition of the rag, with a special focus on which parts of the advertising codes might have been breached. (Details of how to complain, and to whom, can be found at the bottom of the article.)
Since I'm neither a doctor nor a lawyer, none of the opinions expressed here should be taken as fact; as with everything you read on the internet, check the research for yourself.
The front cover of a magazine or newspaper doesn't usually fall within the remit of the advertising codes, with the exception of the 'front page flash' - a promotion appearing at the top of the page, above the title - which sometimes does.
The WDDTY flash reads:
"Discover treatments that are safer and more effective"
A brief examination of the magazine suggests that this claim might not, strictly speaking, be true. According to lab tech and blogger Jaycueaitch,
"Another health issue of the middle-aged which is addressed is hearing loss... Among the remedies suggested on page 41 is... the herb gingko biloba to “improve blood circulation to the ears” which alleged effect allegedly restores hearing loss and we are further told that the “higher the dose the better the result”. No mention of potential problems is made..."
That list of potential problems should concern anyone suffering from diabetes, seizures, infertility or bleeding disorders, as well as anyone who is planning to have surgery, give birth or breast-feed a child. Worse still, Gingko Biloba interacts with many other medicines, including some in widespread use such as Xanax, Prozac and Ibuprofen. (The herb is probably safe for the general population and its effects on blood-clotting have been challenged in recent research.)
Disregarding the potential hazards, WDDTY offers this astonishing advice:
"Can your hearing be restored? Although doctors tell you that a hearing aid is the only recourse for age-related hearing loss, a wide range of herbs and supplements may be able to restore your hearing... Try the herb Gingko biloba, which helps to improve circulation to the ears. Take 30-200 mg daily; the higher the dose, the better the result... "
The ASA does rule on front-page flash promotions (see this example), so it might be worth challenging the one on the front page of WDDTY one. But even if not...
Although the front cover itself isn't complainable, the advert on page 17 for an annual subscription most certainly is - and it contains all of the same claims!
"Discover treatments that are safer and more effective... Reverse bone loss for good - The secret your doctor doesn't know... Asthma exclusive - End your child's wheezing without drugs... Sunbathe your diabetes away... Natural botox - Safer ways to beat wrinkles... 'How I avoided a hysteroctomy through diet'... Rock'n'roll dads - You can regain your hearing... Unsteady gran? It's drugs that cause the falls, not old age..."
You might also challenge whether the caption at the bottom is misleading, because it appears to offer advice on the treatment of cancer (risking a contravention of the 1939 Cancer Act):
"CERVICAL CANCER ALERT - What every mother (and daughter) should know about the new jab [HPV vaccine]..."
I would also challenge the text apparently lifted from the Guardian at the bottom of the page. Even if the text is genuine and not quoted out-of-context, is WDDTY misleading when it claims to present "information that is scientific"?
Brandon Bays is one of those feel-good-about-yourself speakers from the US.
"Research by the American Center for Disease Control states that 85% of all illness is emotionally based."
Naturally, Brandon can't find the space in her full-page advert to provide a citation of this claim, but "85% of all illness" doesn't leave much room for the kinds of medical problems caused by germs, bacteria, ageing, environmental causes and unwise lifestyle choices.
Brandon might not be able to do anything about that tiny assortment, but she can certainly help with the remaining 85%!
"Discover the radiant essence of your own being and the incredible - even miraculous - healing potential of your own body... The Journey Intensive Seminar WITH BRANDON BAYS, London, 19-21 October 2012..."
The claim that "85% of all illness is emotionally based" is not likely to be sustainable, and should be challenged. (The advertised seminar is a snip at £495.)
It can be noted, too, that even those wacky chiropractors don't believe in the existence of subluxations any more.
Your complaint will also want to challenge whether naturopathy can really "identify the root causes of [health] problems":
WH Smith Customer Services: Customer.Relations@WHSmith.co.uk
Waitrose Customer Services: email@example.com
Sainsbury's Customer Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tescos Customer Services: Complaint form
Other blogs discussing WDDTY: Tessa Kendall, Hayley Johnson, "Labcoats unbuttoned" , The 21st Floor, Andy Lewis, Hayley Stevens and Popehat. Josephine Jones has been keeping an updated list. Thanks to Josephine Jones and Hayley Stevens for finding the links above.