March 3, 2010

Furor over France’s "pornographic" anti-smoking ads

A French anti-smoking campaign comparing smoking to sex slavery is being accused of everything from dissemination of pornography to insensitivity to child sexual abuse victims.

The ads -- set to be published in newspapers and posted in bars -- feature teens smoking cigarettes in such a way that they look like they might be performing oral sex on a man in a suit. The caption reads, "Smoking means being a slave to tobacco."

"Traditional advertisements targeting teens don't affect them. Talking about issues of health, illness or even death, they don't get it," a spokesperson for the Association for Nonsmokers' Rights told AP in explanation. "However, when we talk about submission and dependence, they listen."

The 16-year-old who alerted me to the controversy thought it was quite a hoot. But the family minister of France is not laughing. She is calling for a ban on the ads as "indecent exposure" and "an affront on public decency." Likewise, a child welfare group called the ads cruel and insensitive toward young child abuse victims. Tobacco company representatives are also incensed at being compared to pedophiles. "It's no longer prevention, but out of place provocation," one tobacco association said on its web site.

Ironically, the advance uproar is giving the anti-smoking campaign so much publicity that it will make the formal ad campaign unnecessary.

Hat tip: Greg