Two television adverts for an electronic cigarette brand have been banned before 11pm following 1,156 complaints that they were overly sexual and exploited women.
The ads for VIP e-cigarettes, which carried a post-9pm restriction and also appeared on the advertiser's YouTube channel, drew complaints that dialogue between a man and woman contained references to oral sex.
A number of complainants said they understood an accompanying female voice-over saying "If you're gonna vape, vape with VIP" was "wordplay on the term rape".
438 Marketing Ltd, responding on behalf of Must Have Ltd trading as VIP Electronic Cigarettes, said it did not believe the ads were overly sexual.
It said the use of a double entendre portrayed a "sexual situation" only to reveal that the scene was not what viewers expected, and acknowledged that the ads were suggestive but said they were intended for adults aged 25 and over.
VIP said it understood the term "vape" referred to the action of inhaling vapour from e-cigarettes.
YouTube said that while it was the advertiser's responsibility to ensure that any advert complied with regulations, the adverts in question violated their guidelines and had been removed.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acknowledged the complainants' concerns that the presentation of the ads included implied references to oral sex but noted that they contained no explicit sexual imagery and concluded by revealing that the commentary related to an e-cigarette.
It also found that the ads were not likely to be viewed as sexist, degrading or exploiting women and therefore concluded that they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence on this point.
But it added: "We considered the sexually provocative presentation of the male and female characters in conjunction with a graphic description of oral sex was likely to cause serious and widespread offence to viewers who viewed (the television) ads during normal evening viewing.
"We acknowledged the post-9pm timing restriction would reduce the risk of younger children seeing (the television) ads, but because of the references to oral sex, we considered a post-9pm timing restriction was not sufficient to avoid offending viewers and that a post-11pm timing restriction should have been applied.
"On that basis, we concluded that (the television) ads breached the code."
It said consumers needed to locate the YouTube ads on the advertiser's YouTube channel, so were not likely to cause serious and widespread offence to those viewers.
It agreed that the term "vape" related to the use of e-cigarettes and did not equate to wordplay on the word rape, therefore finding that the term was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ASA ruled that the television ads must not be broadcast again before 11pm, adding: "We told VIP Electronic
Cigarettes to ensure ads were not likely to cause serious or widespread offence in future and to ensure that they were appropriately scheduled."Suggest a correction