Debated in France: Can a Sexually Suggestive Ad Stop Teen Smoking?

Some argue sexuality is a good way to "get the message through"

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France is aflame over a new anti-smoking ad campaign aimed at teens. The ads show teenage boys and girls crouched before a standing man, eyes up submissively with a cigarette dangling from their mouths. "To smoke is to be a slave of tobacco," the ad reads.

But is the none-too-subtle use of sexual imagery too much? Outraged French politicians and activists say yes, and are rallying against it. Here, for example, is what Florence Montreynaud, president of a French feminist association, has to say in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche:

[This] shows the marketers' creative poverty. Each time they have a failure of ideas, they again trot out the idea of sexuality ... It's particularly scandalous to compare tobacco addiction to sexuality, to lay desire and a harmful drug side by side ... The connotation of sexual violence seems to me to be outrageous--it's a sexist publicity campaign.

While the vice-president of French ad company BDDP defends the campaign, his words aren't exactly calculated to calm. Saying cigarettes impose "the worst of submissions," he explains that the firm "searched for a shocking image that was most emblematic of this submission." Adds the president of Droit des Non Fumeurs, a nonsmoking advocacy group, "it's a necessary way of speaking to youth who don't listen to arguments based on health or morality." Sexuality is a good way to "get the message through."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.