Skip to main content

There’s good and bad news for ostomates this year. The good news is that ostomy awareness seems to be on the front page of the internet lately. The bad news is not all of it is positive.

Take for instance the CDC’s recent anti-smoking ad campaign. Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post wrote an article titled, “CDC Alters Anti-Smoking Ads After Complaint From Ostomy Association.” The ad implies that if smokers don’t quit, they may end up with colorectal cancer which may lead to ostomy surgery. Here are Bernstein's statements with respect to the goal of the ads:

“The point of the ad was that smoking causes colorectal cancer.”

“The CDC's $68 million ad campaign is designed to be shocking.”

Many anti-smoking ad campaigns can be unpleasant, but this time their message caused a stir in the ostomy community. Many ostomy advocates are working tirelessly to end the stigma surrounding ostomies. Now they are collectively using their voices to take action by starting an online petition.

To clarify, the CDC did not cancel the ads. Instead, they edited parts of the original language that was most offensive to the ostomy community. In the longer version of 'Julia's Story', for example, the 59-year old woman no longer says of her colostomy: "And you go whenever it goes. You have no control. If it comes loose, it smells." Also gone is her statement, "I was at home the majority of the time because I was scared it would come loose, it would smell and I didn't want to be around anyone. So I was really kinda, like, stuck at home."

Read the April 17 article on The Washington Post: Ostomy association asks CDC to pull anti-smoking ads it calls ‘offensive and dangerous’

Read the April 21 article on The Washington Post: CDC alters anti-smoking ads after complaint from ostomy association

Based on feedback from people with ostomies, former smokers, and others, the CDC has now updated the video and wrote an apology letter about their Anti-Smoking campaign.