• 7/23/2002
  • Paris, France

A new anti-smoking campaign in France hopes to shock smokers into kicking the habit – using real-life images of a man dying of lung cancer.

The health warning, which screened on television for the first time Monday, depicts an emaciated 49-year-old man sitting on his bed, five days before his death.

“This is just a smoker, who started at 14, when you think you’re immortal,” says a voice on the 27-second film. “He could never stop.” Images of the man’s life appear on his bedroom wall throughout the film, which ends with a warning: “Starting at 14 is fatal.” The man shown, Richard Gourlain, had his wife film him hoping the footage could be used to discourage others from smoking, said Gerard Dubois, president of the National Anti-Smoking Committee that produced the film. Gourlain died in 1999.

“You can say it’s sensational, it’s too tough – but we wanted to show the truth,” said Dubois. “These images correspond to reality.” The French committee decided to use shock tactics having seen the success of reality-based anti-smoking campaigns in Anglo-Saxon countries, he said. “The tobacco industry lies to promote its products – all we have to do to destroy them is tell the truth,” he said.

Another anti-smoking campaign screened on television and printed in newspapers last month alarmed many smokers. The warning said a commonly consumed product had been found to contain toxic substances. It invited people to phone a toll-free number for information. Half-a-million people called, and were told that the product was the cigarette. The National Health Institute for Prevention and Education, which dreamed up the campaign, said it was a big success.

Smokers in France bought 83 billion cigarettes last year, about 1 percent more than in 2000, according to the Center for Documentation and Information about Tobacco, an association of tobacco companies and tobacconists. Around 60,000 people die in France each year of smoking-related illnesses, according to the National Health Institute for Prevention and Education.

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