Posted Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, at 2:01 PM
Having sex is as bad as smoking a cigarette. At least, that's what a French advertising campaign (image possible NSFW) launched by the Nonsmokers' Rights organization, would like young people to think. The campaign has three different ads, all of which show a teenager kneeling down in front of a clothed man, cigarette in mouth. The cigarette presses against the man's crotch, suggesting that smoking is like performing oral sex. Of the man, we only see the glimpse of a business suit or pants, and a hand, pushing on the teenager's head to encourage the smoking/fellatio. As if comparing smoking to performing fellatio wasn't absurd enough, the tag line adds that "Smoking is being tobacco's slave." So giving head apparently means being dominated.
This did not please a feminist association, which protested the equation of sexuality with a harmful addiction. The ad agency answered in a French newspaper that the campaign was "not comparing the two. The goal was simply to say 'You are subjecting yourself to smoking.' There is no analogy between sex and tobacco."
A friend seeing one of the pictures immediately thought it was about sexual submission: the business attire, the young and worried look of the teens-it all screamed "forced sex act" to her. In an interview with 20 Minutes , another French paper , the ad-agency director assured that the idea wasn't that the teens were acting under duress. "What we're showing is not a rape, it's a fellatio," he said. The teen is "legal" and "accepts obediently to submit to an adult, just like when smoking," and "nothing proves that the teens are performing this act against their will," he said.
So let me just make sure I've got this right. The ads depicts teenagers giving head, except that instead of a penis, it's a cigarette they hold in their mouth. But there is no analogy between sex and tobacco. The teenagers seem young and innocent, a hand forces their heads down as the tag-line talks about submission and slavery. But, hey, there is no comparison drawn between sexual submission, oral sex, and tobacco. Anyone in need of a cigarette break?