eu cigarette packaging
© REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Revolting propaganda
A man in eastern France made a discovery that left him appalled. A photo of his amputated leg was used, without permission, on a box of cigarettes to spread awareness of the dangers of smoking. He now wants answers.

The photo appeared on packs of cigarettes sold throughout the European Union, and is accompanied by the caption: "smoking clogs your arteries." Yet the man, a 60-year-old Albanian immigrant living in Metz, said he never agreed to the image being used for that purpose.

"It's rather incredible that a person finds themselves without their agreement on cigarette packets throughout the European Union," said Antoine Fittante, the man's lawyer.

To boot, the Albanian man said he lost the limb during armed conflict in the Balkans in 1997; the amputation had no relation to tobacco-use.


Originally, it was the man's son who made the connection. After purchasing a pack of rolling tobacco in Luxembourg, he recognized scars and traces of burns on the close-up image, and soon decided to raise the issue with family members, who confirmed his suspicion.

The man believes the photo was taken during a recent hospital visit to determine whether he could be fit with a prosthetic leg, but he said was never asked about using the images for any other purpose.

The European Commission, the agency responsible for distributing the images that appear on tobacco products, is supposed to draw from a database of verified images, according to a French media report, "which is obviously not the case here," Fittante said.

"My client feels betrayed, wounded in his dignity, by seeing his disability [displayed] on cigarette packets in tobacconists; one must admit that's not very pleasant," the lawyer said, adding he will have no trouble proving the image is indeed his client.