After it sparked outcry and a threat by the French government to ban the publicity, France's advertising regulatory body on Wednesday demanded that a suggestive anti-smoking campaign be scrapped.
"The visuals used suggests scenes of sexual aggression... proposing an ambiguous message to the young public," the ARPP, a self-regulating advertising body said in a statement, calling the campaign a violation "to rules of decency and dignity."
AdvertisementThe deliberately shocking 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."
France's minister for families, Nadine Morano, said she would take measures to get the advert banned on grounds of "public offense to decency."
"There are other ways to explain to young people that cigarettes make you addicted, at a time when we are fighting against child pornography," she said.
Health minister Roselyne Bachelot called it "inappropriate" and "counter-productive," though she agreed it had become necessary to use "shock images" to discourage the young from smoking.
The association Non-Smokers' Rights which launched the poster said it was intentionally "shocking and disturbing."
The pressure group Families of France said it had made a formal complaint to advertising standards authorities.
A spokesman for British American Tobacco in France, Yves Trevilly, denounced the advert for effectively branding tobacco sellers "pedophiles or rapists."
One woman who phoned radio station Europe 1 to complain that the advert was not even comprehensible to the age group it aims to help. Her 12-year-old son "didn't understand it at all," she said.
In a comment posted on the station's website, another commenter insisted: "The shame is not the ad but letting young people fall into the hands of harmful substances."