Smoking ads take the biscuit

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The Independent Online
Paris - A biscuit a day may not keep the doctor away, but it is still a better health bet than a cigarette, even someone else's cigarette, writes Mary Dejevsky.

This is the verdict of a French court, which yesterday banned a series of controversial advertisements for the tobacco conglomerate, Philip Morris, which appeared to suggest biscuits could be more dangerous to health than passive smoking.

For two weeks, Philip Morris Europe has been running newspaper advertisements in France and elsewhere (including Britain), designed to challenge the notion of "passive smoking". In France, where smoking is more widespread than in Britain, the adverts took up a full page of the national daily papers.

One advert, headed "Life is full of risks - but they are not all the same", included a large picture of three biscuits. The text beneath cited the results of a US Environmental Protection Agency investigation which, it said, put certain "everyday" health risks higher than that of "passive smoking", including "eating a biscuit a day".

France's National Union of Biscuitmakers took umbrage and took the advertising agency to court. The judge decided in their favour, awarded them token damages of one franc, and banned the Philip Morris advertisements.