The campaign broke after Christmas and also showed an artery clogged with fatty deposits caused by the condition atheroma. It linked the condition with smoking and was initially approved by the BACC with a post-9pm restriction.
The majority of the complaints were that the images were distasteful, unnecessarily graphic and questioned if there was medical evidence to back up the connection being made between smoking and heart disease.
In its defence, the BHF cited a British Medical Journal study conducted over a period of 40 years, which showed that cigarette smoke increases the build-up of atheroma in coronary arteries, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease.
The BHF reported that its own pre-campaign research had shown that the graphic imagery was an effective way to communicate this link with smokers and that substituting cigarette ash with the fatty substance reinforced the link.
The BHF also claimed that the ad had been effective, with an increased number of calls to its helpline and to its website. In the month after the campaign broke, website traffic increased by 78 per cent, giving it the highest response of any of its health awareness campaigns, with more than 10,000 smokers contacting the helpline.
Ofcom ruled that although it was clear some viewers had found the ads objectionable, the importance of the message and the reasoning behind the approach outweighed this. It was therefore judged to be acceptable for transmission.