Man finds own amputated leg on cigarette packets without consent

David Chazan
The image was on cigarette and tobacco packets sold in the EU - AFP

A man in France was outraged to discover that his amputated leg was pictured on cigarette packets throughout the EU without his consent.

The picture was displayed on cigarette and tobacco packets sold in the EU beside the message “smoking clogs your arteries”.

The man, an Albanian who lives in Metz, eastern France, said the picture showed recognisable burns and scars. His son discovered it when he bought a packet of rolling tobacco in Luxembourg last year.

He showed it to his 60-year-old father, who confirmed that it was a picture of his leg.

He said his amputation had nothing to do with smoking but was the result of a shooting in Albania in 1997 and he never agreed to the use of the picture as a warning against the hazards of smoking.

The man believes it was one of a set of pictures he sent to a Metz hospital, asking if he could be fitted with a prosthetic leg. He said he never heard back from the hospital.

Antoine Fittante, his lawyer, said: “Each scar is distinct and unique. This man also has traces of burns on his other leg, which are clearly shown. An expert will have no difficulty in identifying the image. There aren’t two men in the world with scars in exactly the same places.”

Mr Fittante has contacted the European Commission, which is responsible for images reproduced on EU cigarette packets, but said it has not given a satisfactory explanation.

It is supposed to use pictures from a database which are verified and published with the consent of the person shown.

The Commission informed Mr Fittante that “the person whose name you communicated to us is not included in the library of images intended for health warnings”.

The lawyer said that raised the question of whether someone signed a consent form using another name. “The Commission will have to provide further information,” he said. “It’s rather incredible that a person finds themselves without their agreement on cigarette packets throughout the European Union. My client feels betrayed, wounded in his dignity, by seeing his disability on cigarette packets in tobacconists. You must admit that’s not very pleasant.”

Mr Fittante said he wanted to establish who was to blame for the unauthorised publication of the image and then to seek compensation.

According to family members, the amputee had long cherished a dream that an artificial limb would allow him to walk without the crutches he has depended on for more than 20 years.

He was referred to a specialist at the Legouest military hospital in Metz last year. He had an MRI scan and photographs were taken for evaluation. But months passed without word from the specialist, and he lost hope of getting a prosthesis when he saw that one of the photographs has been used on tobacco and cigarette packages.

“That was when my father lost confidence in the medical profession, his son told a local newspaper, Le Républicain Lorrain. “It’s really hurtful.”