It looks like the Onion has more influence on the real world than they might prefer to think. Their satire video about a teen health campaign that compares smoking to being gay triggered a discussion about what comedy is allowed to say when it comes to minorities. The French, who aren’t exactly squeamish when it comes to sex or racy content in advertising, are already a step ahead. A controversy has erupted over an ad that some feel has gone a step too far: it doesn’t just evoke oral sex, but actually simulates it. And these salacious images are targeting young people in what is actually a laudable campaign — trying to stop them from smoking.

The ads are meant to link smoking to submission and have a caption that reads: “Smoking means being a slave to tobacco”

The campaign of the Droits des Non-Fumeurs (Non-Smokers’ Rights) association features male and female adolescents kneeling at the waist of a businessman with a cigarette in their mouth.. Queer activists are concerned the ads could rehash prejudices and clichés against gays; an organisation for rape victims says “the campaign trivialises sexual abuse – worse, it implies guilt on the part of the abused”. France’s conservative minister for families, Nadine Morano, said she would take measures to get the advert banned on grounds of “public offense to decency”.

Tobacco is the number one cause of avoidable deaths as well as of cancer in France, according to the health ministry. Half of French students over 14 have tried smoking at some point. While Droits des Non-Fumeurs argues that young smokers tend to ignore adverts focusing on health, other activists were doubtful about the effectiveness of the provocative posters.

What do you think, are these ads too much or just enough?