The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad for Nicolites e-cigarettes must not appear again after ruling that it breached regulations by implying that the device could be used as an aid to stop smoking.
The ASA said the poster, headlined with the words "Kicks Butt", was similar to the stop smoking campaign "Kick Butt", and consumers were likely to associate the two. Two people complained that the ad was misleading because it implied that the product could be used to help quit smoking.
Nicocigs, which makes Nicolites, said the phrase "Kicks Butt" was not a phrase that suggested any medicinal benefit and therefore the product did not require, nor did it have, any marketing authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
In response to concerns about the similarity with the "Kick Butt" campaign, Nicocigs said it had no knowledge of the project and did not intend to associate itself with it. The ASA noted that Nicocigs had a sponsorship arrangement with Birmingham City Football Club and agreed that the phrase "Kicks Butt" could be associated with sport, and football in particular.
But it said: "Because we considered the ad implied that consumers could use the product for smoking cessation and we understood that the product had not been licensed by the MHRA for that purpose, we concluded that the ad breached the Code in that regard."
The ASA ruled: "The ad must not appear again in its current form."