Wednesday 24 February 2010

That French anti-smoking advert

Whenever you think anti-smoking activists have scraped the bottom of every barrel, they plumb new depths. Taking Liberties reports an almost unbelievable new anti-smoking advert in France that makes a bizarre connection between smoking and sexual abuse. You can see the ad here. Taking Liberties comments:

"As far as I know, practising fellatio doesn't cause cancer," said a spokeswoman for the Movement for Women's Liberation. I think this misses the point of the advertisement which, as I see it, implies that under-age smoking is on a par with a teenager being forced to have (oral) sex with a middle-aged man (ie child abuse or sexual assault if not rape).

Or am I reading too much into this?

I don't think he is reading too much into it and nor does The Strait Times:

Child sex anti-smoking ad

Deliberately shocking anti-smoking adverts that compare nicotine addiction to sexual abuse, and which the French government has vowed to ban, sparked a lively debate on Wednesday.

The ads show a man pushing a kneeling child's face towards his crotch. Two feature boys and one a girl. The children look fearfully up at him, holding in their mouth a cigarette that appears to protrude from his fly. Under the image runs the slogan: 'Smoking makes you a slave to tobacco.'

There is so much wrong with this campaign that it is hard to know where to begin. It should be emphasised that this is not an official government campaign. It comes from France's Non-Smokers' Rights Association (who funds them, I wonder, and what does this ad have to do with nonsmokers' rights?) The health minister and the minister for families have both spoken out against the ad.

But that fact that anyone could (a) come up with such an idea, and (b) go through with it, gives you some idea of how warped these people's minds are. This is, to use activist parlance, 'the next logical step' in a campaign that knows no limits of taste and whose values have become hopelessly twisted. It is the product of an ideology that says that smoking is bad therefore anything that is anti-smoking must be acceptable. As I have long said, this fallacious reasoning leads us down a very dangerous road.

Whether it's the quack science of second- and third-hand smoke, or ads like this, the failure of normal people to speak out and bring some measure of sense and proportion has allowed the lunatics to run free. Obsessive and mentally unbalanced individuals have found a crusade which allows them to act without restraint or reason.

Ads like this are the inevitable outcome of denormalisation. Ironically, they serve only to expose the people behind them as being far from normal. Their mask of sanity is slipping.


Anonymous said...

Says ore about the repressed sexual desires of the French Non-Smokers' Rights Association than it does about cigarettes.

Anonymous said...

"As far as I know, practising fellatio doesn't cause cancer,"

Well, actually HPV is major a cause of throat and mouth cancers.

It's a crude and tasteless ad.


Anonymous said...

The anti smoking lobby are getting out of hand.
For instance here is an article on Reuters stating that smokers are not as intelligent as non smokers.
As an IT proffesional who happens to smoke.
I find it grossly offensive.
It is junk science of course.
It is a well known fact that some very intelligent people smoke ,the late Albert Einstein being a good example.
Isn't it horrible what we have to put up with from people with low social skills like anti smokers.
Now who is really showing a lack of intelligence here ?

Leg-iron said...

Light their cigarettes, and it's an ad that says 'Smoking makes children immune to paedos'.

The whole antismoking lot have always had a very unhealthy obsession with children. I think, with this ad, they are starting to reveal why.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why a man was chosen to stand in front of the kneeling kids ?
It's obvious what is being protrayed here or they would have chosen one man and one woman to make the point.

timbone said...

Reminds me of the guy in New Zealand (or was it Australia) who said that letting teachers who smoke educate the indiginous people was like letting paedophiles teach children. Someone made a very good point about this particular ad on another blog, and I have also seen it referred to elsewhere. What is in the minds of people who think up these kind of adverts? Would you have thought about it. Do you go around thinking about middle aged men making youngsters suck their apendages? I don't. What kind of people do?

RDP said...

Given what the intent of antismoking is – to denormalize/abnormalize/stigmatize/immoralize smoking – I got the impression that the middle-aged man represents the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is coercing ‘children’ and young adults into the equivalent of a ‘lewd act’. The young ‘participants’ seem hesitant or unwilling. With this one depiction the tobacco industry is viewed as an abuser/molester/violator, i.e., immoral; the act of smoking viewed as obscene via the unseemly relationship with the tobacco industry, i.e., immoral. This constant delusional attempt by antismoking – by manipulating/'re-engineering' the habit - to make smoking appear obscene/vulgar/immoral would result in smoking only being able to be practiced in private, alone or between consenting adults, and with no children present - something ‘like’ sexual acts (see Godber Blueprint )

You’re right. These are disturbed minds. We’re getting an indication into what goes on in those troubled minds. It is these minds that are immoral in attempting to force ‘associations’ – through manipulation, deception, irrational belief/fear/hatred - that only make sense in their perverse fantasy world. Only more perverse is that such minds are running Public Health.

Anonymous said...

I like your analysis, RDP.

Having thought about this a bit, other than the captions and the accompanying cigarettes in the teenagers' mouths, the ad really has no clear context.

For instance, take the hand placed atop the crown of the head. In an entirely removed context, the photo resembles a blessing being received from a minister while kneeling at an altar. The way the eyes are looking up makes it seem that approval is being sought. Only the presence of the phallic cigarette explicitly evokes a sexual aspect. Otherwise, it would appear that supplication is being granted.

It occurs to me that the man out of frame is more symbolic of an establishment anti-smoker than he is a tobacco executive.


Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Luc Dussart said...

This was a fake campaign. Read what published Le Monde today (in french) :

Comment faire un tabac avec une campagne "fantôme"

Laurence Girard, LE MONDE, 28/02/10

La campagne antitabac qui a fait le tour du monde médiatique... n'existait pas.

Tout a commencé mardi 23 février, avec la publication en "une" du Parisien de deux photos qui jouent la provocation, présentant de jeunes fumeurs à genoux devant des adultes dans une position à connotation sexuelle. Une campagne publicitaire qui "fait scandale", selon le quotidien. L'information est reprise sur TF1, France Inter, les Guignols de Canal+, "C dans l'air" de France 5, et même le New York Times et la chaîne publique chinoise CCTV.

Mais qui a réellement vu la campagne ? A-t-elle été insérée dans une page publicitaire d'un journal ? A-t-elle été affichée dans les rues ? Non.

Seule certitude : journalistes et blogueurs ont reçu, lundi 22 février, un communiqué de l'agence publicitaire BDDP & Fils évoquant le lancement "d'une campagne choc auprès des jeunes" pour l'association Droits des non-fumeurs. C'est sur la foi de ce communiqué que les journalistes ont relayé l'information. Ils ont aussi demandé des comptes à l'Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité (l'ARPP). "Il n'y avait pas de campagne publicitaire. L'agence nous a dit qu'il s'agissait en fait de 15 000 cartes distribuées dans les boîtes de nuit et les bars en Ile-de-France", affirme Joseph Besnaïnou, directeur général de l'ARPP.

Mais, face aux protestations des associations et de Nadine Morano, secrétaire d'Etat à la famille, l'ARPP a publié, jeudi, un communiqué demandant la "cessation immédiate de cette campagne". Une ingérence dans le contenu éditorial puisque la publicité n'existait de fait que dans des articles qui la commentaient.

Vendredi, Droits des non-fumeurs et l'agence BDDP & Fils se frottaient les mains, comptabilisant des "retombées médias" dépassant toutes leurs espérances. La campagne a finalement été diffusée ce jour-là dans les espaces publicitaires des magazines Choc et Entrevue. De quoi lui donner un minimum de réalité si elle souhaite concourir au prochain Festival international de la publicité de Cannes, du 20 au 26 juin, où la présence de campagnes "fantômes" fait régulièrement polémique.

Luc Dussart said...

post scriptum >
'Fantôme' means 'ghost'.
And 'faire un tabac' is 'making a lot of noise' ; 'tabac' here is not related to tabacco but to an old french word meaning 'kick'. The expression means 'having great success'...

By the way, the first draft of the communication was not related to sex but only submissiveness. Read Big business : big pharma = big tobacco (

Alison Keppler said...

This entry brings up an important issue that I feel is often somewhat ignored. I am very interested in the culture surrounding much of contemporary advertising, and feel that this ad is an excellent example of when modern culture forces advertising to cross the line. Given the impressive staying power of smoking in today’s culture, in spite of all health concerns working against it, I feel that cigarette ads and anti-smoking ads are a great place to look for edgy material: tobacco companies need excellent publicity in the face of bans and regulations to maintain their market share, and anti-smoking campaigns have to work that much harder to topple the giant. However, ‘working that much harder’ often seems to result in inappropriate, over-the-top efforts. In the case of this particular French advertisement, I must agree with you that there “is so much wrong with this campaign that it is hard to know where to begin.”

Another controversial anti-smoking ad that I reference in my blog is a commercial in which a child is crying having temporarily lost his mother, and it is asked how he would feel losing her for life. I can certainly understand where the controversy surrounding this commercial is coming from; in many ways such an approach feels like a manipulation of our emotions. But to those who were upset, I feel obligated to ask, is not all advertising a manipulation of our emotions? After all, advertising is based on the idea of “creat[ing] a scenario that heightens the consumer’s emotional state.” In this particular case I feel the ad is making an entirely justified point, one that clearly and directly correlates to the issue at hand. This French ad, however, is on an entirely different level. To equate smoking to a form of sex slavery is beyond obscene. I can see where the organization is coming from in their statement that “traditional advertisements targeting teens don’t affect them.” I can even see the connection to “submission and dependence.” What I can not see is why they felt tying these concepts into an ad using sex slavery would be in any way appropriate. Not only is the connection difficult to distinguish in the face of the aggressive sexual innuendo, but it is also blatantly offensive to anyone that has been in any such situation. I am generally in favor of controversial advertising, but I strongly feel, as I am sensing you do, that advertisements as truly offensive as this one directly undermine the message at hand by making the ad solely about the edgy approach. As you wisely acknowledge, such ads “serve only to expose the people behind them as being far from normal.” I am a non-smoker and support anti-smoking campaigns. However, in this case, I am left thinking not about any anti-smoking messages but instead just about the crassness of the ad, which in my opinion is the mark of an ad poorly done.