Why The New Quit Smoking/Cancer Awareness Advert Needs To Be BANNED

If you’ve read my blogs before, or know me at all, you’ll know that I am all for raising awareness. For me, the main issue I hope to raise awareness for is IBD and Ostomy. I spend a lot of time working closely with different companies, support groups and charities, and encourage others to raise awareness also. There are a lot of things that can bring you to needing an ostomy, including colon cancer. I have met others who live with an ostomy due to battling cancer, the loveliest people who are so grateful for their stoma now, as they now live the lifestyle they always hoped for.

So to me, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advert came as a complete shock. I’m not sure if you have seen it, so I will just quote exactly what was said.

“I’m Julia, I smoked and I got colon cancer. I had chemo and two surgeries. But what I hated the most, was the colostomy bag. That’s where they re-route your intestines so you have bowel movements that go into a bag. Through a hole in your stomach. My tip is: get over being squeamish. You’re going to be emptying your bag 6 times a day.

The video ends with her holding up an ostomy bag, with a voiceover telling you where to visit to help you quit smoking.

I know it may not concern many people that don’t have an ostomy, or those whom don’t know much about them, but to me, it hurt. It hit a nerve, quite hard. Watching this video bought out so much anger that I didn’t know was there. I am absolutely, utterly disgusted that they feel they can advertise a quit smoking campaign with something that has saved so many lives.

It angered me for many reasons, upset me on so many peoples behalves. Now, I understand that the aim of this advert was to help smokers quit. I understand that the aim of this advert on their behalf, was a positive one. But what I don’t understand is why they felt the need to use a condition that can be caused by a variety of diseases – not just colon cancer – to put people off of smoking? Why should we have our condition used as a negative towards something like smoking?

How the hell do they think that makes people who live with ostomys feel? People like me? Who at 19, underwent EMERGENCY Ileostomy surgery for ULCERATIVE COLITIS. This was not in anyway my fault. I did not do anything to add to my need for an ostomy, nor could I have done anything to prevent it.

This advert is painting the image that a need for an Ostomy is caused by something we have done to ourselves. Telling us that we are facing the consequences for disrespecting our bodies. Treating it as a punishment; telling us that we deserve it.

It angered me even further to know that the woman speaking had been through chemotherapy and countless surgeries, but decided that having to wear a colostomy bag was the worst of it for her. How could she forget to mention the fact that her colostomy bag was the reason she’s still here to help contribute to this horrendous advert?

Wphoto(7)hat has insulted me even more is that the company felt confident enough to use a life saving disability as a reason not to smoke, yet couldn’t get their facts right. In the videos description, it states “She needed an ostomy bag taped to a hole in her abdomen to collect waste.” This is absolute shit. You don’t TAPE an ostomy bag to your stomach. And there is NOT just a hole in your abdomen. Your intestine is bought out to keep it working. To keep you alive. There is no hole, there is a stoma. A part of your intestine that everyone is born with, just positioned differently.

How the hell does this company have the audacity to make people feel so insecure? And how the hell do they have the nerve to use my condition as an example of why you should not smoke?

Can you just imagine it. Just please, take one second. One second to think about your biggest insecurity. The thing that you feel makes you feel different to the rest of the world. The thing that you would have to talk to somebody about in complete confidence to overcome. Okay, now imagine it being talked about negatively in public. Somebody taking that insecurity, and using it as a consequence of something that could kill you.

That’s exactly what this company did. This company took smoking, something obviously unhealthy, which carries a lot of risks. Something that a lot of people deem as dirty. Something that can cause you illness in so many ways. This company took that, and expressed the opinion – not fact – that if you carry on smoking, you will end up with a stoma bag. Oh wait, they didn’t even mention a stoma did they – sorry. And what’s worse, is the fact they tell you that you will need to get the “squeamish” side out of your system to be able to cope with it.

How dare they. How dare they do this. My ileostomy bag saved my life. It does not make me feel squeamish. If anything, I am just damn grateful to be alive.

There are so many people out there with ostomys, due to a variety of illnesses. I can guarantee most of these illnesses are not self inflicted. I won’t go into detail with these illnesses because I can’t pretend to know much beyond what Google tells me. But what I do know is myself. And I know that my bag is not something to be used to counteract a negative decision. It is not something to make others squirm. And it is definitely NOT something that should be used as a fear. It is what has kept me walking on this earth, and has kept me living. Really living.

This advert should be banned entirely. Please do carry on helping others quit smoking, and please carry on raising awareness for Cancer. But do not by any means do this by making people living with other conditions feel like they’re inadequate. Because by doing this, you are making it twice as hard for people like me to speak out. To raise awareness on our own behalves. To feel normal. For people like me, my bag was a god send. It was the difference between life and death. It is not something to be ashamed of or disgusted by.

How are we meant to move on and embrace our bodies when such a large company are drilling it into the minds of society that Ostomy’s are nothing but a consequence?

We’re not an anti-smoking campaign. We’re people. Real, living, feeling people. Remember that.

11 thoughts on “Why The New Quit Smoking/Cancer Awareness Advert Needs To Be BANNED

  1. Aaron Spanton says:

    Hi Hattie, I just saw your post and I understand your point of view. I quit smoking in Feb if 2013 and now vape. I have been following the cdc, fda and public health with their anti smoking campaigns lately. They have taken a server turn toward ugly and not necessary. The anti smoking campaign they are pushing out really needs to stop. I would be happy to see you pick up the fight. Keep up your fight and spread the word! Thank you.


  2. Hilary O'Brieb says:

    i said the exact same thing on fb today a friend brought your comments to my attention. I was upset and angry that they used a colostomy as a negative image. It is already a difficult thing to get used to and can cause a negative self image. I feel badly for individuals that have had them from childhood or as a young adult. I had mine after I had a total colectomy, it was supposed to be temporary for 3 months until I had pelvic floor retraining aka biofeedback. I ended up with peritonitis post-op and almost died (glad I had my bag because had I not all the contents of my intestine would have leaked into my peritoneal cavity and I would have bee much sicker). I had the reversal in February. It was a very difficult period in my life. My huge weight loss made my appliance Ill-fitting and it leaked constantly. I did not leave my house much and when I did I had to make sure there was a bathroom nearby. I now have other issues r/t the colectomy I am dealing with. But, as a person that has had one it is not a negative thing it serves a purpose and is not just related to cancer or smoking it is a survival tool for many people, including the cancer PTs. I hear you and give you kudos for showing your beautiful stoma, it is not disgusting nor negative even if they believe it is stopping people from smoking. It thoroughly disgusted me. What insensitive jerks.


  3. Hilary says:

    How do I know you received my previous comment? And I read that you have the option to have a reversal, I did and my surgery was a great success. I deal with some rectal burning from the acid in my stool and use the toilet way more often. But, I feel great like the old me. Good luck.


  4. Aileen McEleney says:

    Hi I’m a nurse. I live and work in Scotland so have not seen the ad. It sounds foul, and I’m so sorry that so many people like yourself have been hurt by it and that people, ignorant of the positives of ostomy, are being led to believe that it is something shameful, self inflicted and negative. Before today, I had also never heard of you our your blog. I applaud your honesty, your courage and your motivation to help others. Your article v was written with such passion that it moved me to tears, not of sadness but of pride that there are young people out there who care so deeply and who can take a devastating condition and turn it into a force for good. Please keep up the good work. People will continue to have lifesaving ostomy surgery, and, in this climate of glossy magazines and body image, will struggle to accept it as a positive step. You will help them come to that and get on with living their lives to their full potential. Continue to be proud of your body and of yourself. You have every reason to do so. As we say in Scotland – gaun yersel hen (you go girl). 😊


  5. Louie says:

    Sorry about your ostomy predicament.I have a urostomy,a colostomy,and now a dual nephrostomy.You know,once everything is firmly sealed and I am dressed,life becomes mostly normal and acceptable.I had to learn to tune it all out and get on with daily life.Things like this can become all consuming if we let them.


  6. Leanna says:

    But, if you DID have a choice to not be ill and not have a bag, or to put yourself in a situation where you develop an illness where you would need it…would you still choose to develop that illenss? Just because something is saving a life and has saved many lives, doesn’t mean otherwise healthy people should destroy their health to use such a life saving device.

    Chemo and surgeries are temporary. Her current situation with the bag will continue to be on-going. A person saying they wish they hadn’t made the choice to do something which gave them cancer isn’t negative. Her stance on her own health problems due to smoking is in no way a disgrace to your actual illness.


  7. Aimee says:

    You are amazing and I thank you for writing this blog I don’t myself have a stoma but my nan does and she is the most fantastic person on this planet she had her op as you said a life saving one at 21 just after getting married it hugely changed her life but it meant that she could as you said live because from the age of 11 she lived with ulcerative colitis I would just like to thank you for raising awareness and fighting the corner of every person that feels insecure about there osotomy bag xx


  8. Nate says:

    I just saw the ad a few mns ago and was dumbfounded for minute, I was so mad I wanted to call the cdc and bitch them out, I still do. Not only did it save my life but, I hate it too, I know without it I wouldn’t be here but, a great self image is really hard to have with it. I’ve had it since 2008, I was 25 with cancer and the surgeon said there is no other option. So, the ad paints it all bad, and yes it sucks and I would rather be normal but, I’m here because of if, and if you’re with your friends or family everybody instantly will start thinking about how bad smoking is,,, no bullshit, they’ll start thinking about me. And that’s ok, but most of the times I don’t want to discuss it, or for it to be what people are thinking about. CDC needs eat s#!+ for this ad, and btw this isn’t the only offensive ad either, I support what you are doing, thank you.


  9. june adams says:

    I have an ostomy because I have a genetic defect not from smoking. I would be dead if not for my ostomy.I think the commercial stinks.


  10. John Martin says:

    I have an ileostomy due to surgery to “cure” my ulcerative colitis. (Haha, just like the “cure” for gangrene is to lop off the hand/foot/whatever).

    Here’s my take on things: I think of these anti-smoking ads as showing one possible negative consequence of personally choosing to engage in a dangerous activity, in this case the dangerous activity is smoking. I don’t see the ads as insulting to those who experience the same consequences due to primary diseases which are obviously not their fault.

    People may be warned against choosing bad eating habits lest they suffer obesity or diabetes, but not everyone who has diabetes or is obese has that condition due to personal choices. Not everyone who sufferers liver cirrhosis got that way because of alcoholism. Not everyone who must use a wheelchair can point the blame at their own choices (e.g., engaging in dangerous sports). Some people must use hearing aids because they chose to listen to music too loudly their whole life, whereas some people have a disease of the ear).

    So unless the anti-smoking ads are specifically saying, or obviously implying, that everyone with an ostomy has only themselves to blame, then I’m not going to mind the ads.


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