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Few would argue that anti-smoking adverts need to be frank, tough and honest in order to get their message across. The latest smoking cessation advert presented in France this week has been criticised for going too far. Controversially, the ad imposes a link between smoking and oral sex.
The posters, which will appear in bars and newspapers, show two young smokers who are kneeling down, and inhaling cigarettes placed suggestively next to a businessman’s trousers. Next to this are words: “Smoking Means Being a Slave to Tobacco”.
The advert is intended to shock, according to the group that commissioned it, Droits De Non-Fumer (“Non-smokers rights”). The organisation insists that they wanted to send the message to young smokers that while cigarettes may seem liberating or rebellious, in reality, they can only lead to dependency.
While the group stand by their campaign, it has shocked some. One visitor to the Non-Smokers Rights website, wrote that the campaign “trivialises sexual abuse”. Others say it could give the false-impression that fellatio causes cancer.
A national epidemic
Smoking is the number one cause of avoidable deaths in France. It is also the primary cause of deaths from cancer. In 2006 the country banned public smoking, although recent reports suggest people are flouncing the law by lighting up indoors.
The government has been accused of failing to live up to its promise of enforcing the ban through tight checks on workplaces; apparently many workers are starting to realise that they can get away with having a cigarette by the vending machine, instead of having to step outside into the freezing cold with their colleagues.
The habit is popular with young people, with half of French students over the age of 14 having tried cigarettes at some point, so it may be difficult for this campaign to get through. ‘Non-Smokers Rights’ hope that the startling image on the poster may shock youngsters, and that it will make them contemplate the realities of what they are doing when they puff on a cigarette.