By Calvin Palmer
There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on in France over the latest anti-smoking advertisement aimed at teenagers.
The French being French went for a tried and tested formula to get the message across – sex.
The ad — developed pro bono by the BDDP & Fils advertising agency – shows male and female teenagers in a pose that suggests oral sex, fellatio to be precise, with the slogan: “Smoking means being a slave to tobacco.”
Launched on Monday, the campaign aims to discourage young people from smoking and the ads will be published in newspapers and posted in bars.
Critics are incensed and France’s Family Minister Nadine Morano today called for the ads to be banned.
“I think this might constitute an affront on public decency, indecent exposure,” Morano said. “There are other ways to explain to teenagers that cigarettes are addictive.”
Pro-family groups have denounced the ads as ineffective, even pornographic, and also called for them to be banned.
Christiane Therry for the Families of France association, Christiane Therry called the ads “stupid”.
“It makes no sense,” Therry said. “An advertisement, even a provocative one must be decipherable and understandable, it should create a message, transmit a message.
“This campaign gives the impression of being more about sexuality than about anti-smoking. This is what bothers us.”
The director of the Association for Nonsmokers’ Rights (Droits des Non-Fumeurs), Remi Parola, defended the ads, arguing that such provocative campaigns were the only way to reach young people.
“Traditional advertisements targeting teens don’t affect them,” Parola said. “Talking about issues of health, illness or even death, they don’t get it. However, when we talk about submission and dependence, they listen.
“The visuals have a sexual connotation, that I can’t deny, but it’s really a way to start a discussion with young people to get them to understand the dangers of smoking.”
The irony of the uproar is not lost on BDDP & Fils vice president Marco de la Fuente.
“What’s funny here is that those who are making a flap over the ads, saying they are indecent, are the ones who are promoting the campaign,” he said. “This campaign has made a splash thanks only to them.”
Smoking among the young is still prevalent in France despite the smoking ban in bars and restaurants, and cracking down on those who sell cigarettes to minors.
A recent study by the French Watchdog of Drugs and Addictions reports that one-third of French 17-year-olds smoke tobacco.