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Shop banned from running adverts that discourage mask-wearing
2 December 2020, 01:01 | Updated: 2 December 2020, 01:03
A shop in Glastonbury has been banned from running unlawful adverts that discourage people from wearing face coverings.
Hemp in Avalon was found to have broken advertising rules after posting ads containing "misleading, irresponsible and harmful" information.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld complaints against the Somerset-based shop after it received two objections to its adverts.
A post placed in the local publication The Oracle read: "Hemp in Avalon welcomes all customers, with or without a mask. The choice is yours."
The advert also had a photo of a shop mannequin wearing a face covering with the word "hoax" written on it.
Further text said wearing a mask is "dangerous to your health" and causes people to breathe back in their "own toxic waste", a claim that is not supported by scientific evidence.
The ad also said: "10% DISCOUNT FOR FACE TO FACE, UNMASKED TRANSACTIONS ON CO2 EXTRACTED HEMP FLOWER EXTRACTS."
The ASA said a post on the advertiser's Instagram account featured the same image and text, with additional writing down the side saying: "Who's the dummy?"
A caption accompanying the post stated: "Unmask yourselves and breath! ... I was actually considering a 10% surcharge for cashless faceless transactions ... Unmask yourself and realise That real eyes realise Real lies The plandamic The scamdamic The total hoax of Covid 19."
Geraint Christopher, trading as Hemp in Avalon, said the Instagram post had been removed and the shop had no plans to run similar ads in future, according to the ASA.
The Oracle said it had run the ad because it understood there was an ongoing debate in the country about the efficacy of face masks, though it did not have an opinion. It added it would refuse such ads in future.
Hemp in Avalon's ads discouraged members of the public from wearing face coverings in the Hemp in Avalon shop and more widely, the ASA said.
In a statement, the watchdog explained: "We understood that requirement (for masks to be worn in public settings) was based on scientific evidence that suggested that a face covering could help reduce transmission of infected airborne droplets from the person wearing it to those around them, thus helping to reduce the transmission of the virus in the community.
"We considered that the ads incited people to break the law and concluded that the ads were misleading, irresponsible and harmful.
"The ads must not appear again in the forms complained about.
"We told Geraint Christopher t/a (trading as) Hemp in Avalon not to incite people to break the law by discouraging people from wearing face coverings in shops, including by making misleading claims that masks were harmful."