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Department of Health smoking ad kicks up a stink with viewers

LONDON – An anti-smoking television campaign from the Department of Health that said 'if you smoke, you stink' has racked up 33 complaints from viewers who said that the ad was offensive and derogatory to smokers.

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The Advertising Standards Authority decided that although the ad, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, was described as discriminatory and misleading, the blunt nature and the message in the ad was justified.

In the spot, a man is seen making eye contact with a woman across a crowded bar. As he approaches her, he wrinkles his nose in distaste, makes his excuses and leaves the woman standing on her own wondering what was going on.

The woman is then seeing lighting a cigarette and the tagline "If you smoke, you stink" appears on screen with a website address and telephone number for help, and advice on stopping smoking.

Four viewers objected to the use of public money to fund the campaign, saying that cigarettes are legally available products and claiming that the government would not want to do without the revenue tobacco generated in duty.

Seven people believed that the ad discriminated against smokers and claimed that similar campaigns about obesity or ones that singled out people because of their race, sex or gender would not be tolerated.

One viewer believed that the tone of the ad would encourage people to be confrontational towards smokers.

AMV said it had conducted research to test the effectiveness of its approach. The smokers surveyed were said to have appreciated the ad's humorous approach and it was particularly well received by its target audience -- those aged 17-25 years and without children.

The advertising agency said that its research found that 91% of adults and 81% of smokers surveyed agreed with the statement "smoking makes people smell".

The ASA concluded that it did not consider that the ad claimed that smoking was the only cause of an unpleasant smell and the complaints were not upheld.

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