WASHINGTON (Hearst Newspapers) — Cat lovers deserve to die.
Posters bearing that strange statement have been plastered on payphones and subways throughout U.S. cities this summer, from Texas to Michigan.
Similar death wishes are aimed at good-looking people, the tattooed and other groups.
So what’s going on here?
The ad campaign, which has sparked outrage as well as confusion, does not intend to condemn people who like cats, the physically attractive or anyone else — quite the opposite, actually.
It’s all part of a campaign by the Lung Cancer Alliance to raise awareness about lung cancer and to try to end the stigma attached to the disease.
“What we’re saying is that no one deserves to die,” said Kay Cofrancesco, director of advocacy relations for the Lung Cancer Alliance. “Whatever your lifestyle choice is, no one deserves to die from lung cancer. We really felt we needed to do something that would grab the attention of the general public.”
Earlier this summer, ads began sprouting in 31 U.S. cities including Washington, D.C., Dallas and New Orleans, claiming members of various groups (cat lovers, the smug, crazy old aunts, hipsters, the genetically privileged and the tattooed) deserve to die.
The campaign’s website says the stigma attached to lung cancer is one that implies that those who get the disease give it to themselves through their choices and behaviors — mainly, cigarette smoking. According to the website, this isn’t true. While it is no secret that tobacco smoking greatly increases one’s risk of obtaining lung cancer, the campaign insists there are other risk factors as well, like radon or asbestos exposure, second hand smoke, military service (certain dioxin exposure), age, environmental factors, other health-related issues and family history.
The campaign intends to alert people to these facts and show that anyone can get lung cancer.
Some people feel the campaign is in poor taste. For one week, the posters appeared in various cities throughout the U.S. without an explanation, a website or anything to do with lung cancer.
Shelli Williams told CBS Chicago earlier this summer that the “Cat Lovers Deserve to Die” posters are “offensive to people who are animal lovers.”
Kyle Rothfus of Lakeview, Ill. told CBS Chicago that, “Nobody deserves to die. Come on, that’s a hell of a statement.”
That, Cofrancesco retorts, “is exactly the point.”
“Many people believe that if you have lung cancer, you did something to deserve it. It sounds absurd, but it’s true,” according to the group’s web site, noonedeservestodie.org. “Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither should you. Help put an end to the stigma and the disease.”
According to the American Cancer Society, Lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer, with an estimated 160,340 deaths, accounting for about 28 percent of all cancer deaths expected in 2012.
“Some people don’t think there is a lung cancer stigma, when in actuality, ask any survivor, there have been studies done that it does exist and because of the stigma, we’ve been unable to make progress in many aspects,” Cofrancesco said.
The cities that have featured some form of a “No One Deserves to Die” are Washington, DC, Boston, Atlanta, NYC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Louisville, New Orleans, Miami, Denver, Raleigh-Durham, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, Albany, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Nashville, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Ann Arbor, Portland, Richmond.