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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently debuted a new series of anti-smoking awareness advertisements. One ad, in particular, has drawn the ire of the ostomy community. The ad features a woman, Julia, describing her experience living with colon cancer. At one point, Julia references a colostomy pouch she had to wear for a year post-surgery and how she feared leaving her home due to potential embarrassment (e.g., smells and leaks from the pouch).

The United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) created a petition that encouraged the CDC to remove the ad and correct any misleading information about ostomates. The WOCN® Society stands in solidarity with UOAA and encourages the WOC community to sign the petition. We are also working closely with our public policy team to draft a letter to the CDC that outlines the many damaging repercussions this advertisement may cause.

WOCN Member, Amanda Blanton, responded to the CDC’s "Tips from Former Smokers" Campaign

For the majority of my nursing career, I have been a WOC nurse (and loved every minute). Before receiving WOC training, I worked as a staff nurse on a step-down unit where I was often faced with life and death situations. Quick thinking and saving lives is a part of the job people always ask me if I miss since I decided to become a WOC nurse. What nurses outside our world don't fully comprehend is how we save lives each and every day.

Life isn't just about the breaths we take or the number of times our heartbeats. Life is about our passions, the people we love and the hobbies we enjoy doing. In my 5½ years of WOC nursing, I have witnessed firsthand how ostomates fight to return to a normal life and struggle to conform to what society says is normal. It is our job to support, educate and encourage every individual that requires an ostomy so that they may have every possible chance at embracing their new life because in every case the stoma has done just that – given them a new lease on life.

No one could have prepared me for how my life's work would encompass being a friend, a counselor or just a shoulder to cry as these individuals navigate their ostomy journeys. Additionally, no one could have prepared me for how inspired I would be by each ostomate's perseverance, strength and will to live again. These reasons are why I was so stunned by the CDC's ad.

I speak to all my WOC nurse colleagues when I say we must take offense to the CDC's "Tips from Former Smokers" ad for its implied assumptions and stigmas about life with an ostomy. We cannot stand idly by while these ads destroy our work and the reality that each ostomate, present, and future, can have a normal life.

- Amanda Blanton, BSN, RN, CWOCN

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