Man finds 'own amputation' on cigarette packets without consent

Image source, Antoine Barège, Radio France
Image caption,
The 60-year-old man says the picture of his leg was used on cigarette packets without his consent

A 60-year-old man in eastern France says he was stunned to discover that a picture of his amputated leg had been used on cigarette packets, as a warning against smoking, without his consent.

The picture was displayed alongside the message "smoking clogs your arteries".

But the Albanian man, who lives in Metz, says he lost his leg as the result of a 1997 shooting in Albania.

The European Commission, which is responsible for the distribution of such images, says the man is mistaken.

Media caption,
Alpa Patel reports

The man's son discovered the picture - which bore recognisable burns and scars - when he bought a packet of rolling tobacco last year in Luxembourg, French media report.

He brought the packet home to his family.

"He [my brother] was coming back from Luxembourg. Without saying a word, he put a big box of rolling tobacco on the table," the man's daughter told regional newspaper Le Républicain Lorrain.

"We were stunned. We did not believe it."

The family thought it was indeed a picture of the father's leg.

"It's our father's. His scars are characteristic," the daughter added.

The man, who has not been named, says he had never agreed to the picture being used. He believes it was taken at a local hospital he visited in 2018 to find out whether he could be fitted with some kind of walking apparatus.

He has been walking using crutches for more than 20 years following a shooting incident in Albania in 1997, in which he lost his leg.


The family's lawyer, Antoine Fittante, is also adamant that the picture is of his client's leg.

"Each scar is specific, unique. This man also has burn marks on the other leg, it's very clear. An expert will have no trouble identifying the image.

"It's rather incredible that a person finds themselves without their agreement on cigarette packets throughout the European Union," Mr 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."

Mr Fittante has written to the hospital to find out how the photos ended up being used.

Le Parisien newspaper, however, cast doubt on the claim by showing the same photograph in a collection used for an EU anti-tobacco campaign dated 2017 - before the man's visit to the Metz hospital. It also appears in an EU image database from 2014.

The newspaper also said it had contacted the hospital, which could not confirm the man's story.

"We have the identity, the agreement and the rights for all the people photographed for this campaign," a European Commission spokeswomen said, quoted by Le Parisien.

"From the information we have, we can say without a doubt that this individual is not one of them."