slimming pills
The advert for the weight loss pills attracted 200 complaintsASA

An ad campaign featuring young-looking women using slimming pills to lose weight before they went on holiday has been banned after 200 complaints said it promoted an unhealthy body image among teenagers. The TV and YouTube adverts for XLS Medical's pills, which are available online and over the counter, showed two already slim women exchanging text messages with one saying the pills could help users drastically lose weight.

Her friend then looks in the mirror at herself, frowns and declares: "Urgh. I'll never fit into my wardrobe." The advert ends with the slim pair shown on holiday posing together for a photo.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 200 complaints over the advert, including from naturist society British Naturism. Viewers said the actresses used looked under the age of 18 and as such would likely promote an "unhealthy body image, particularly among young girls".

Omega Pharma, the parent company of XLS Medical, defended its campaign saying on-screen text told customers the pills should be used "as part of a calorie controlled diet and healthy lifestyle". The company said the actresses' conversation "was in line with the well accepted concept that before going on a summer holiday, some consumers sought to adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle".

It added that the actresses used were aged 24 and 29 years and claimed both had healthy BMIs. It insisted the advert was not about women with low body confidence but about "holiday preparation".

The ASA disagreed, however, and said in a ruling on Wednesday (3 February) the ad must never be shown again. It said it depicted a woman "needing to lose weight, despite her already slim and healthy appearance", and ruled the promotion was "socially irresponsible". It added: "The overall impression of the ad presented an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence."

Complaints the advert was targeted at young girls were not upheld, however, with the ASA saying the promotion did not contain anything likely to appeal specifically to under-18s.

It comes not long after the ASA banned another TV ad for being irresponsible after promoting a corset which promised to squeeze women's waists to a "sexy, tiny" size. Last year, the ASA refused to ban Protein World's "Beach Body Ready" campaign despite almost 400 complaints it objectified women.