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The Treachery of Images
February 24, 2010 3:46 PM   Subscribe

A French association for non-smokers' rights has launched a new ad campaign [all links potentially NSFW] that visually equates smoking with oral sex, using the tagline: "To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco." The pictures show adolescents, young men and women, and the act looks submissive, even forced. Uproar ensues. The Minister for Families vows to ban the images. Commentators join in. French slang helps explain: "Faire un pipe" and "Fumer le cigare" are both common-enough terms for the act that most people who see the images would get the double-entendre.

French slang helps explain: "Faire un pipe" and "Fumer le cigare" are both common-enough terms for the act that most people who see the images would get the double-entendre.

And then there's the goat & dog series. Where's the bestiality uproar?

Cigarette ads previously, previouslier and even more previouslier.
posted by chavenet (70 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wouldn't that, you know, make people want to smoke?

Gah.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Personally its always bugged me the way I'll go out for a harmless night of drinking, only to wake up the next day with my clothes reeking of blowjobs.
posted by mannequito at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [34 favorites]


More ad images
posted by Nelson at 3:57 PM on February 24, 2010


Sounds like somebody saw this Onion video(not really safe for work) and decided it was a good idea.
posted by AndrewStephens at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oooh yeah, Big Tobacco likes it just like that.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


My better judgment rarely prevails here.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


You see? This is exactly what all those 19th-century Englishmen were talking about.
posted by No-sword at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2010


I don't think the ads make the act look forced, really - the kids look naive and brainwashed (which is the point.) Obviously there are other issues.

I'm not really comfortable with the co-opting of troublesome sexual imagery (playing up the whole misogynistic/homophobic "you're my bitch! suck my dick!" mindset.) It's like how PETA objectifies women to make a point about animal rights.

Basically, "Okay, maybe the ads shouldn't be banned. But are you seriously comfortable with evoking sexual abuse of minors?"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hey France! Call me when smoking doesn't make social situations easier and isn't incredibly relaxing!

Until that point, I will not felate you! Even for your finest unprocessed cheeses.......
posted by lattiboy at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


the ads just made me want a cigarette and i stopped smoking years ago.
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do like the "ne vous faites pas rouler par la cigarette" tagline, though.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2010


I assume their defense is that ceci n'est pas une pipe?
posted by griphus at 4:05 PM on February 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


Why can't they just depict smokers as eating grilled cheese sandwiches?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


They have non-smokers in France?
posted by gimonca at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2010 [17 favorites]


Clearly Big Tobacco likes to dress well, whilst getting serviced.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2010


Basically, "Okay, maybe the ads shouldn't be banned. But are you seriously comfortable with evoking sexual abuse of minors?"

French age of consent is 15.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 4:15 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc for the win! BING BIGN BING!!! BING!!!
posted by Skygazer at 4:15 PM on February 24, 2010


Associating cigarettes with deviant sex will certainly reduce their appeal. Oh yes.
posted by WPW at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have this theory that smoking in places like Italy and France is actually good for you, so this really dovetails quite nicely into that little romantic notion...

Bebe...would you like filter or unfiltered....bebe.
posted by Skygazer at 4:19 PM on February 24, 2010


Basically, "Okay, maybe the ads shouldn't be banned. But are you seriously comfortable with evoking sexual abuse of minors?"

They're supposed to be minors? The two guys look like standard issue skinny twinks to me.
posted by CKmtl at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2010


But are you seriously comfortable with evoking sexual abuse of minors?

I'm more disturbed by the idea of somebody getting up close to my genitals with a lit cigarette in their mouth.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:31 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


See what they should've made it out to be was that, everytime someone smokes in France, basically a blow job is going to waste.

I think that would've been the "win win" way to go with this....
posted by Skygazer at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


And then there's the goat & dog series. Where's the bestiality uproar?

To most dog owners I know, getting all slobbery is just a quiet moment after coming home from work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2010


The country that created Gauloises will never quit smoking. If smoking those won't drive you to quit, nothing will.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


>: Associating cigarettes with deviant sex will certainly reduce their appeal. Oh yes.

Blowjobs are deviant?

In France?
posted by dunkadunc at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


I said they're evoking (not depicting) the sexual abuse of minors because the kids are clearly adolescents and one can assume the suited business man is an older adult.

Maybe I should have been more general: they're co-opting the imagery of an abusive/exploitive "relationship". I don't think this is a contentious point, because that's the entire point and message of the ad campaign.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:37 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


i don't want to install "Cooliris" to see this.
posted by pinky at 4:46 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because if there's one thing that makes people not want to do something, it's associating it with sex.
posted by delmoi at 4:50 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The country that created Gauloises will never quit smoking. If smoking pronouncing those won't drive you to quit, nothing will.

Really, I love the language.
posted by ryoshu at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2010


Gauloises are pronounced "Gaul oysters" but with a cockney-style silent T (oys'ers).

This is a reference to the gobs of phlegm that their smokers cough up.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 PM on February 24, 2010



This is a reference to the gobs of phlegm that their smokers cough up.


The direction this may or may not take does interest me mildly.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:21 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a reference to the gobs of phlegm that their smokers cough up.

I believe I've also heard Brits refer to it as "lung butter".
posted by telstar at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2010


I just read this article in NYT and was fascinated, but I think we've broken the ad sites. The first two links aren't working for me.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2010


All kidding aside, I just love the way anything goes, whether it be in this country, or in France now I guess, when it comes to anti-smoking campaigns. How much harsher, humiliating and more grotesque do they need to get? I mean there is such a thing as beating a dead horse, I mean what comes next putting cancerous lung tissue in cigarette packs? Why is it okay to be so abusive and nasty towards smokers?? Does AA portray alcoholics as naive stupid twats waiting to be fucked in the face??
posted by Skygazer at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does AA portray alcoholics as naive stupid twats waiting to be fucked in the face??

Um...
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2010


I mean there is such a thing as beating a dead horse, I mean what comes next putting cancerous lung tissue in cigarette packs?

Welcome to Canada.
posted by CKmtl at 5:38 PM on February 24, 2010


Actually Paris has gotten a whole lot less smoky since they put the smoking ban in place in cafes and restaurants. From what I've heard it's actually worked. Even before the ban it was quite common to find non-smoking areas in most restaurants and people were reasonably polite about not annoying non-smokers. OTOH, I've also heard outdoor cafes are still pretty strongly smoky.

Here's a funny thing about national health care: it creates another incentive to get people to stop smoking.
posted by Nelson at 5:38 PM on February 24, 2010


Um...

Wow, that commercial is terrible. It's practically calming that women who get trashed at parties deserved to get raped or something. If not deserved, then as a natural consequence of getting drunk at parties.
posted by delmoi at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2010


C'est faire unE pipe. Merde quoi. #spits#
posted by litleozy at 5:45 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favourite French (Belgium) anti-smoking ad
posted by litleozy at 5:50 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Now, I'm confused... 30% of French Men smoke, 24.1% of American men smoke (21.2% & 19.2% respectively for the females)*

Why do Americans have the higher cancer death rate?


*Oh, the smoking stats are in that site too. There's a dropdown menu in the upper left. I don't feel like going back and finding it as citation for these stats.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2010


Looks like they've got french-fried taters in their mouths.
posted by Pragmatica at 5:56 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blowjobs are deviant?

"Forced" ones are.
posted by WPW at 6:02 PM on February 24, 2010


By which I mean, the ones in the ad look forced, but it can't be said for sure, hence the quotes.
posted by WPW at 6:05 PM on February 24, 2010


Why do Americans have the higher cancer death rate?

If France is so big on food, why do Americans have the higher obesity rate?
posted by ODiV at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


30% of French Men smoke, 24.1% of American men smoke .... Why do Americans have the higher cancer death rate?

Perhaps it could be that 100% of French Men are covered by French National Health Insurance System and 0% of American men are covered by the American National Health Insurance System.
posted by three blind mice at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


100% of French Men are covered by French National Health Insurance System and 0% of American men are covered by the American National Health Insurance System.

... which in turn, could partially explain why 30% of French men smoke, but only 24% of American men do.
posted by notswedish at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2010


Blowjobs are deviant?

"Forced" ones are.


Rather: forced ones are. "Forced" ones are perfectly okay.
posted by griphus at 6:25 PM on February 24, 2010


I dunno, for an anti-smoking campaign, these ads feel half-assed, as if the creative director stormed out of the brainstorm meeting grumbling: "OK, OK, you win. But at least come up with a better tagline than 'I'd rather you smoke my pole.'"

If you're going for the shock factor of the most effective anti-smoking ad campaigns, show me the cold hard reality of taking dangerous risks. I don't want to see the agency interns holding a cigarette against someone's zipped-up, finely-pressed pant suit. Show me how smoking is like the grimy reality of a $5 back-alley blowjob -- show me the broken bottles, used condoms and needles littering the ground, overflowing dumpsters.

And if the client is adamant about running with some nonsensical sex slave concept, show us a dark, dank D&D dungeon room, leather, chains. And get a new tagline for godsakes -- let's see the ad creatives push the "stub the butt" themeline as far as they can take it.

/critique
posted by prinado at 6:27 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The links don't work for me, either.
posted by Forktine at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2010


This campaign might actually be pretty effective with one target market: young / teenage smokers, especially boys. The phrasing of the ad and the staging of it imply "Smoking is like sucking off a tabacco executive / The Man / some guy / etc", which will not go down well with young straight French guys (and generally anyone who sees sucking cock as humiliating / disgusting). In one of those ethical contradictions that seem to crop up so often in public health policymaking, these ads might succeed in harnessing homophobic images of oral sex to dissuade boys from smoking.

Not that I'm particularly thrilled with making sex—yet again—a scene of harm and repugnance.
posted by LMGM at 6:32 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, "Okay, maybe the ads shouldn't be banned. But are you seriously comfortable with evoking sexual abuse of minors?"

Well, we certainly wouldn't want to evoke anything icky in an attempt to keep people from dying of lung cancer.
posted by DU at 6:51 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess sucking a butt probably wouldn't translate well. Too bad.
posted by Redhush at 7:34 PM on February 24, 2010


Well, we certainly wouldn't want to evoke anything icky in an attempt to keep people from dying of lung cancer.

There's clearly a large difference between showing the graphic consequences of smoking (Icky! But not a morally icky advertising strategy!) and using a clumsy, rather poorly thought out metaphor founded on sexual abuse to talk about something 100% unrelated to sexual abuse.

...Thus my comparison with PETA objectifying women in order to protest for animal's rights.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


in short: your rephrasing of my point as "ewww I don't like icky things" is kind of insulting.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:18 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, speaking of French slang: when I was in Japan playing piano and said I was going to visit a friend who played the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), the club drinkers would all giggle. Turns out the phrase means, in Japanese slang, to give a blow job. I guess we Americans have a similar slang phrase involving the "skin flute." Weird.
posted by kozad at 9:15 PM on February 24, 2010


Bathtub Bobsled said:

Now, I'm confused... 30% of French Men smoke, 24.1% of American men smoke (21.2% & 19.2% respectively for the females)*

Why do Americans have the higher cancer death rate?


Perhaps this is one factor?

Red Wine's Antioxidants Counteract Acute Endothelial Dysfunction Caused by Cigarette Smoking in Healthy Nonsmokers

From the abstract:

Background: Long-term smoking is believed to cause endothelial dysfunction via increased oxidative stress, whereas short-term smoking impairs vasodilatation through an as yet undefined mechanism. However, red wine and its constituents have a powerful antioxidant effect both in long-term and acute consumption. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether red wine, with or without alcohol, influences endothelial dysfunction induced by acute cigarette smoking.

Conclusions: Acute smoking caused a significant impairment in endothelial function. Simultaneous consumption of red wine or dealcoholized red wine with smoking decreased smoke's harmful effect on endothelium.

Another paper:

Combined Acute Effects of Red Wine Consumption and Cigarette Smoking on Haemodynamics of Young Smokers

From the abstract:

CONCLUSION: Antioxidant substances in red wine counteracted the smoking-induced increase in peripheral systolic blood pressure. Both alcohol and antioxidants in red wine decrease wave reflections in uncomplicated habitual smokers postprandially, indicating an additional favourable effect of red wine.

Both were double-blind, crossover studies but used small sample sizes (sixteen and twenty smokers, respectively, over a period of only three days) so please take these results with a grain of salt.

What we really need is for a French association for non-smokers' rights to suggest that oral sex may prevent cancer. That would actually reduce smoking because giving oral sex precludes having a lit cigarette in your mouth.
posted by stringbean at 9:38 PM on February 24, 2010


My wife, who is Japanese, has been to Paris several times. She told me that the French, at least Parisians, smoke a lot. This is coming from someone who used to smoke herself, and who is from Japan, from Tokyo, where smoking is extremely common. It's no wonder Tokyo is nicknamed Smokio. But according to her Paris has it beat.
posted by zardoz at 10:16 PM on February 24, 2010


Actually Paris has gotten a whole lot less smoky since they put the smoking ban in place in cafes and restaurants. From what I've heard it's actually worked. Even before the ban it was quite common to find non-smoking areas in most restaurants and people were reasonably polite about not annoying non-smokers. OTOH, I've also heard outdoor cafes are still pretty strongly smoky.

A year ago when I last was there the semi-enclosed parts of the cafes where smoking was allowed were full despite the biting cold.
posted by ersatz at 2:41 AM on February 25, 2010


The very first link points out: Selon "Paris sans Tabac" repris par l’Office Français de Prévention du Tabagisme (21 octobre 2009), entre 2004-2007, le taux de fumeurs quotidien chez les "14 ans" était de 5%, il est passé à 8% en 2008-2009, et pendant les mêmes périodes, ce taux est passé de 8% à 10% pour les "15 ans", de 14 à 18% pour les "16 ans", de 20 à 22% pour les "17 ans" et de 24 à 25% pour les "18 ans". Translation (mine): According to "Paris sans Tabac" ("Tobacco-Free Paris") and used by the French Office for Smoking Prevention (21 October 2009), between 2004 and 2007, the percentage of daily smokers in the "age 14" group was 5%, and grew to 8% in 2008-2009. During the same time periods, the percentage increased from 8% to 10% for "age 15", from 14% to 18% for "age 16", from 20% to 22% for "age 17" and from 24% to 25% for "age 18" groups. Entirely anecdotal, but I do see more youth smoking now than I did a few years ago, and Parisians seem to smoke more than in other parts of France.

Here in southeastern France, in our 50-person offices (of IT engineers, granted, so there is a definite bias in that it's a sample of French people with 5-year engineering degrees, most of them 30-something — and yes, I am the only non-French employee), all of whom I know because I've either given English courses to them or done translations for them, I only know six people who smoke. Two of the six are trying to quit, and there are about four who were smokers previously. It's very, very rare that I come across someone smoking in the street or while waiting for the bus/tram; to the point where I'm surprised when it happens.

I haven't seen this ad campaign at all. Might have been interesting to point out that the TV spot was directed by Yvan Attal.
posted by fraula at 2:54 AM on February 25, 2010


Is there any point in using shock tactics on smokers anymore? Surely the people now taking up smoking are teenagers who have no idea of their own mortality/tendency to degenerate.

If you can persuade them smoking is likely to make them look fat and frumpy then you might be on to something.
posted by Summer at 6:01 AM on February 25, 2010


One reason for the difference in smoking rates between France and the US might be behavioral change among British expats.

Or let me put it this way: I'd run out of cigarettes two days after having moved to New York and I asked someone if I could bum a fag off them.

I got such a look of horror I'm pretty sure I stopped smoking for several days.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2010


Here in southeastern France, in our 50-person offices (of IT engineers, granted, so there is a definite bias in that it's a sample of French people with 5-year engineering degrees, most of them 30-something — and yes, I am the only non-French employee), all of whom I know because I've either given English courses to them or done translations for them, I only know six people who smoke.

Anectodally, I worked for a web dev firm in the early 2000s which was 90% French, located in California. Almost every one of the French people smoked - so did I at the time, which is how I know. I understand, however, that there is a growing anti-smoking sentiment in France, so it may be having a much faster effect than I imagined.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2010


BTW, all those French people were software engineers with degrees, mostly late 20s-early 30s, but the VP was in his 50s and smoked like a train.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2010


the times I saw the most smokers in France was when I went to my teaching internship at a local high school, anecdotally. bam, suddely the sidewalks would be crowded with smokers outside whereas in the main city it was less common.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:55 AM on February 25, 2010


i don't want to install "Cooliris" to see this.

Ironically, this drove me to uninstall it. It made me angry that Chrome insisted in automatically opening CoolIris, a plugin which constantly crashes, so I finally showed CoolIris the door.

There's clearly a large difference between showing the graphic consequences of smoking (Icky! But not a morally icky advertising strategy!) and using a clumsy, rather poorly thought out metaphor founded on sexual abuse to talk about something 100% unrelated to sexual abuse.

No, no, no! You're thinking exactly like a typically mature, sophisticated adult here. "But that's not rational! Surely, showing them the consequences of their actions will lead them to determine that they are making poor choices!" No, it won't. If anything, those kinds of ads just make the act seem that much more of a macho, risk-taking behavior. Kids don't smoke because they think it's harmless. The danger is actually kind of the whole point! Teenagers like to do things that call to mind graphic images of disease and bloodshed. You think they like drugs and gang culture because they think they're harmless?

I think part of the problem is that many mefites are too smart to remember how childish kids' thought processes are. Actually, I think this ad campaign is one of the first I've seen that stands a chance at working. Rather than enhancing the macho image of smoking as most anti-smoking ads do, it rather brilliantly undercuts it. I really think the image called to mind is the important thing. If you repeat these ads enough that a cigarette calls to mind the image of a sexual submissive, then putting a cigarette into one's mouth might just viscerally start to seem less like a bold, transgressive act, and more like a timid, coerced one.

It's easy for a kid to grin and say "yeah, I'm totally giving myself cancer, hehe." I think maybe it's harder, at least for a kid, to say "yeah, I'm totally sucking off the tobacco execs, hehe" just as flippantly.

And is saving millions of people from cancer worth adding one more very small turd to the already gigantic steaming pile that is the collective cultural vilification of oral sex? I'd argue that it might be.
posted by Xezlec at 9:04 PM on February 25, 2010


Teenagers like to do things that call to mind graphic images of disease and bloodshed. You think they like drugs and gang culture because they think they're harmless?

Exactly. What I'd like to see is an ad with a 35-year-old, middle class worker drone doped up on patches and heading towards a future filled with wheezing, an inability to climb stairs, lots of trips to the GP and slightly yellow teeth, and say 'that's your real future'.
posted by Summer at 3:53 AM on February 26, 2010


Genius.... love it.

And others are exactly right - teenagers start to smoke despite knowing exactly what the risk is... most just can't comprehend the true extent or meaning of that risk at that age, no matter how much you explain it. No matter how graphic the photos or whatever. At that age, death is far, far away, and you have a perceived eternity to change your habits later if you make bad choices... remember? That's how the world looks at that age. You don't start really seeing your own mortality until you hit your 30s usually.
posted by TravellingDen at 6:50 AM on February 26, 2010


Wow, that commercial is terrible. It's practically calming that women who get trashed at parties deserved to get raped or something. If not deserved, then as a natural consequence of getting drunk at parties.

delmoi, I don't know why that's calming to you, but, whatever, man.

Heh. Ironic typo is ironic.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2010


Exactly. What I'd like to see is an ad with a 35-year-old, middle class worker drone doped up on patches and heading towards a future filled with wheezing, an inability to climb stairs, lots of trips to the GP and slightly yellow teeth, and say 'that's your real future'.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing a lot of ads exactly like that. Similar ones against drug use. The point is, no matter how pathetic the image you're showing, it's still just reinforcing that they're engaging in a risky behavior with potentially negative consequences, something they already know and don't mind. If, instead, you directly portray the act of smoking not as risk-taking, which kids don't mind, but as embarrassing themselves, which they do mind, you might actually hit a nerve.
posted by Xezlec at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2010


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