A series of French advertisements aiming to warn young people against smoking has shocked some over its visual analogy between smoking and oral sex.

The images used in the ads depict teens – both male and female – bending down in front of an adult man while smoking from a cigarette emanating from the man’s crotch.

Below this, the ad’s slogan reads: “To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco.”

Critics, however, have argued that the campaign’s uncomfortable imagery trivialises the sexual abuse of children.

Marco de la Fuente, vice president of BDDP & Fils, the agency behind the ads, defended the ads, telling the New York Times that the ads were not intended to either “please or to shock people, but to change, to put back into the news a topic we don’t talk about enough, which threatens young people.”

He added: “We can’t be tepid on this subject; we have to hit hard. We are working against years of myth on the basis of films and stars, and we fight against this with zero euros.”

The French government has come out against the campaign with the country’s minister for families calling for it to be banned, while the health minister described the ads as “inappropriate” and “counter-productive”.

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