Friday October 22, 2010

Condom Ads Pushing Young People into “Risk-Taking” Sexual Activity: SPUC

By Hilary White

LONDON, October 22, 2010 ( – Condom use and their promotion in TV ads only helps to promote risk-taking behavior in young people, behavior that contributes to the spread of sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancies, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has said in a new campaign.

The condom ads on UK television, which were approved by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in March this year to be shown during children’s peak viewing hours, are “priming” children to have sex in their teens, SPUC says. Increased condom use has resulted in “shamefully high rates” of sexually transmitted disease among young people, and creates a “false sense of security” for teens, said the organization.

A briefing by another organization, the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, says that advertisers should not be allowed to promote condoms to children. The authors quote the BBC’s own editorial guidelines that state, “Programmes broadcast between 5:30am and 9pm must be suitable for a family audience including children.”

This “watershed” time of 9 pm has been a standard in UK television programming for decades and was designed to protect “young people and particularly children” from violent or sexually explicit material that may include drugs, “the use offensive language or adult themes like suicide, the occult or horror,” wrote the Institute.

“Encouragement to purchase condoms clearly presupposes that children are engaging in sexual intercourse, and while that is true for some, depending upon age, condom advertising is a blunt message to all children whether they are or are not sexually active.

“The potential for direct marketing of condoms to encourage sexual experimentation seems so obvious that it hardly needs stating.”

The ads were approved after a change in the standards was demanded by a government “quango,” the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, who claimed that increased promotion of condoms to teens was needed to bring down rates of STDs and teenage pregnancies.

The proposal is going ahead, despite its garnering one of the largest floods of public complaints in the ASA’s history. More than 40,000 people responded, with the great majority opposed. This is compared to the 200-300 submissions usually received over planned changes to advertising rules.

The National Health Service (NHS) has admitted that STDs are seeing a steady increase in Britain, with the incidences rising since the 1990s. Between 2007 and 2008, the Health Protection Agency reported a 0.5 percent increase in the number of diagnosed STDs, with a total of 399,738 new cases reported in 2008. The greatest affected age group is 16-24 year olds.

Even though they account for just 12 percent of the population, young people account for more than half of all STIs diagnosed in the UK, the NHS says. This includes 65 percent of new chlamydia cases and 55 percent of all new cases of genital warts caused by the Human Papilloma virus, which is linked to cervical cancer.

SPUC says that condom-use, and its promotion on TV and in government-funded school programs, “leads to increased risk-taking behaviour among some teenagers.”

SPUC director, John Smeaton, wrote, “44 years ago when SPUC was founded to fight against abortion legislation, we could never have imagined what the scope of our campaign would be at the beginning of the 21st century.”

While some people may not think that talking about contraception is part of SPUC’s mandate, Smeaton pointed to a causal connection between contraceptive use and the rise in abortions.

“Promoting contraception to children is priming them for teenage sex. Teenage sex leads to unintended conceptions and abortions,” Smeaton said. The ads, “pose a long-term threat to the culture of life.”

“As increasingly explicit sexual messages are being thrust at our children, their hearts and minds are closing to the pro-life message. As sex is robbed of its special and intimate role in creating new human life, the sense of anything special about an unborn baby is lost too.”

SPUC is asking the public for help in their campaign by distributing pamphlets warning against the TV ads and condom use. They ask: “Can you promote the campaign in local churches, or on the high street, or door to door?”

Posters and pamphlets may be obtained at

[email protected]


3 Whitacre Mews,

Stannary Street, London,

SE11 4AB.

Phone: (020) 7091 7091

| Send Letter to Editor