The first ever UK TV ad to show a person using an e-cigarette — otherwise known as “vaping” — has been banned by the advertising watchdog, little over a month after it first aired, for its potential to “glamorize” smoking (watch the ad below.)
It is now effectively the third time the ad, for e-cig brand VIP, has been banned. The latest ad was reworked from a previous version to feature a glamorous woman inhaling and exhaling e-cigarette vapor. It only ever aired after the 9 p.m. UK TV “watershed,” the hour at which TV authorities believe children are in bed, so adult topics can be broadcast.
However, the late scheduling was not enough to deter a number of high-profile health groups: the Director of Public Heath, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), The Association of Directors of Public Health UK, the British Medical Association, North Lincolnshire Smokefree Alliance, The Vale of York Clinical Commission Group, Sheffield City Council, North East Lincolnshire Health and Wellbeing Board, and the UK Health Forum. There were also 187 viewer complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the ad.
The majority of those complaining challenged whether the TV spot promoted the use of tobacco products by “glamorizing” smoking.
The ASA acknowledged VIP’s defence that the product did not represent a traditional cigarette and that the ads did not use terminology related with tobacco products. However, the watchdog said that the ads created a “strong association” with traditional smoking and presented it in a “sultry and glamorous way.” It banned the ad from appearing again in its current form due to its potential to indirectly promote the use of tobacco products.
VIP’s choice of ad was already a contentious one before this ruling. The creative has already been banned twice by the ASA. Complaints against the “overly sexual” ad were first upheld in February and the ad was banned from being broadcast before 11 p.m, Marketing Week reported.
The ad was toned down, but the edited version was still deemed “too sexual” by the ASA and it was banned again in September following a second investigation, with the company told it should not air the ad again before 9 p.m.
The latest version also picked up three separate complaints: That the depiction of the model in the ad was “overtly sexual” and therefore offensive; that it was irresponsible because it was likely to have appeal to people under 18 years of age; and a separate “irresponsible” allegation, on the grounds that it could encourage non-smokers or non-nicotine users to try e-cigarettes. However, the ASA found that spot had not broken the rules on any of these areas.
The re-worked — and now banned — VIP ad followed a rule change in October from the Committee of Advertising Practice, which writes the UK advertising codes. The ad code has been loosened to allow commercials to show the battery-powered nicotine devices in use — the first time advertisers have allowed to show people appearing to be smoking since 1965.
Here’s the latest banned VIP e-cigarette ad:
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