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VIP ups ante with sexy advert

A revised version of a controversial advert for VIP electronic cigarettes will be aired on 10 November in Britain. It will be the first advertisement for e-cigs to be shown under the revised guidelines of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and the first advert in almost 50 years to show someone "appearing to be smoking" (one newspaper says it shows someone "smoking (sic) an e-cigarette").

A sexier version of the same advert (but without the image of someone actually vaping) was aired last December, and received 900 complaint calls. This earlier version showed the same actress, dressed in a slinky black dress and speaking in a voice one might expect from a telephone sex worker, giving the distinct impression she was talking about oral sex. Another version also included a beefy actor needing a shave, giving essentially the same impression from a male perspective.

This advertisement, and the complaints following the airing, seem to have played a large part in the decision of the ASA to issue new standards for e-cig adverts. These new rules specify that such TV spots must be shown after the "watershed" of 9 pm (21:00), when all the little tykes are allegedly tucked in. The ASA tries to be very clear that spots pitching e-cigs on the telly must be clearly targeted at adults only. The guidelines do not mention the permissibility of comparing vaping to administering blowjobs, but that would seem to be clearly implied by the insistence on pitching to an exclusively adult audience.

Neither do the new standards disallow the actual depiction of vaping, and that is what is causing some ruckus now. Television spots showing people smoking were banned in Britain in 1965. Now, 49 years later, an advert will be aired that shows someone vaping. Given that vaping opponents are often particularly disturbed by the fact that the practice gives the appearance of smoking, many are riled.

Dave Levin, the co-founder of Manchester-based VIP claims that the company's product "is aimed at adults and, as such, all adverts will appear in suitable programmes after the watershed" of 21: 00 (9 pm).

The revised advert does tone down the sexual innuendo of the advertisement. For example, the actor does not appear and offer to "pull it out." Only the actress (the same one) appears, and although she does claim in a sexy voice and with bedroom eyes that "now you can taste it," she does not explicitly claim that she wants to "put it in mouth."

Shahriar Coupal, the Director of the ASA's Committee on Advertising Practice, said: "While the debate about e-cigarettes continues our commitment is to make sure they are advertised in a responsible way, and that children are protected."

Nonetheless, if the little ones stay up after 9 tonight, you might want to have "the talk" with them about alternative romantic practices. 

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