How does a cigarette save a life?

Egg Films’ Bruno Bossi recently directed The Cigarette That Saved Lives, a controversial commercial for The DNA Project, a non-profit organisation raising crime scene awareness and fighting crime with science with the invaluable support of The Change a Life Trust.
“It came as a surprise, as it does to most people, that we do not have the legislative framework in place to more fully use DNA profiling for crime scene investigation in our country,” says Bruno.
In South Africa, the National DNA Database only has about 133 000 DNA profiles and there are only two South African Police Services labs that can perform DNA profiling on forensic samples.

Conceptualised by Fox P2, The Cigarette That Saved Lives depicts another brutal South African murder but focuses on the evidence that’s left behind, encouraging viewers to never disturb a crime scene as DNA can convict.
The ad is paradoxical: a cigarette saves lives in a commercial where the lead woman dies. “The wonderful thing about this ad is that it creates conversation,” says The DNA Project founder Vanessa Lynch. “Egg and Fox P2 have done a brilliant job.”
Everyone involved with the shoot worked pro bono, from the crew to the rental houses. “This project struck me as one of the more worthwhile causes in our country,” says Bruno. The DNA Project would also like to thank the Change A Life Trust for helping by sponsoring this advert.

Vanessa set up The DNA Project after her father’s murderers went free because DNA evidence left at the crime scene was discarded, destroyed and not properly collected.
“There was only one chance to collect and preserve that evidence, and it was lost,” says Vanessa. “We can never go back, so that crucial link to my father’s killers was lost with it.”

The Cigarette That Saved Lives is currently screening on local broadcasters as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children between 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and 10 December 2011 (International Human Rights Day).
“Awareness is one of our biggest problems,” says Vanessa. “You can have the laws and systems in place but you only have once chance to gather the evidence before it’s lost forever.”

The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which proposes an expanded national DNA database, is currently under review by Parliament. Vanessa is available for interviews to discuss the Bill, as well as the gap between shows like CSI and the South African reality. For more information, email

title: The cigarette that saved lives
client: DNA Project
length in seconds: 60 sec
first flight date: 25 November 2011
agency: (+phone no:) Fox P2
city & country: Cape Town
agency producer: Katherine Tripp
Exec creative director: Justin Gomes
copywriter: Gavin Williams
art director: Michael Lees-Rolfe
director: Bruno Bossi
director of photography: Paul Gilpin
producer: Kirsten Clarence
post production co: Black Ginger
editing company & city: Priest Cape Town
editor: Matthew Swanepoel
music & music publisher: Pulse Music NY

One Response to “How does a cigarette save a life?”

  1. […] criminal intelligence database.” The Project prides itself on making this ad which, they say, “creates conversation,” because “it is paradoxical: a cigarette saves lives in a commercial where the lead woman […]