Ad Looks Like Big Tobacco Ad from the 20th Century
The American Lung Association (ALA), with primary financial support from CVS Health (CVS), has initiated a campaign called "Lung Force." The campaign features a video ad
with the theme of "Anyone Can Get Lung Cancer." Although the ad cites
the fact that lung cancer incidence among women has increased over the
past decades and mentions radon and air pollution as causes, nowhere in
the ad is smoking even mentioned.
I went to the Lung Force fact sheet on lung cancer and found that the #1 most important fact is as follows:
"1. Anyone can get lung cancer."
If you click on the link to get more information, it brings you to the
video ad with the theme of "Anyone Can Get Lung Cancer" which doesn't
In a detailed sheet
which summarizes the campaign, there is not a single mention of the
importance of smoking as a cause of the increasing incidence of lung
cancer among women, even though the sheet emphasizes how important it is
to get out all the facts and educate women about the "basics" and even
though the sheet mentions air pollution, radon, family history, and secondhand smoke as risk factors.
And in a detailed summary
of the Lung Force campaign, it again fails to mention smoking. Instead,
it de-emphasizes smoking by hiding the fact that smoking is
overwhelming the chief cause of lung cancer among women. In fact, it
appears that the main objective of the campaign is to downplay the role of smoking in causing lung cancer among women:
"We aim to change people’s minds about what it means to have lung
cancer—so that everyone understands that anyone can get lung cancer."
In a long
video about lung cancer featuring numerous lung cancer survivors,
smoking is not mentioned a single time, other than in an attempt to
suggest that smoking is not as important a risk factor for lung cancer as previously thought.
In fact, the campaign actively suppresses
the sharing of the fact that smoking is overwhelmingly the leading
cause of lung cancer. For example, in presenting Kellie Pickler's
involvement in the campaign, sparked by the death of her grandmother
from lung cancer, it fails to mention the important fact that her
grandmother was a long-term smoker.
The Rest of the Story
I'm not sure
that I can overstate my level of condemnation of this campaign. It is
disturbing, and it is damaging. It undermines decades of education about
the severe health hazards of smoking and about the role of smoking as
the overwhelming most predominant cause of lung cancer. About 90% of the
suffering that the campaign highlights could be prevented if we made
smoking history. But instead, the campaign talks about air pollution,
which only causes about 1% (at the most) of lung cancer.
theme, and the video ad, look like a Big Tobacco campaign from the 20th
century, downplaying the role of smoking in lung cancer by emphasizing
that "anyone" can get lung cancer. I'm not sure the tobacco
industry itself could have done a better job of downplaying the role of
its products in the devastating lung cancer epidemic.
only does the campaign fail to mention smoking as a leading cause of
lung cancer and not only does it downplay the role of smoking, but it actively tries to confuse women about the role of smoking. By emphasizing that most lung cancer is diagnosed in nonsmokers and
omitting the important fact that most of these women are former
smokers, it appears to be intentionally trying to get women to think
that smoking is not the predominant cause of lung cancer. Furthermore,
it does not once mention the role that the tobacco industry played in
the epidemic of lung cancer among women.
industry should really send a thank-you note to the Lung Force campaign
for running a public awareness campaign that downplays the role of
smoking in a way that even Big Tobacco would not do, and is not doing,
in the 21st century.