Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer: Whose Fault?

June 3, 2014  |  Mesothelioma

There’s something about lung cancer and mesothelioma, a stereotype that we’d like to go away completely.

You know how it goes, something to the degree of, “you asked for it.

Wait, hold up, because of course that isn’t true, for either one.

In fact, as for a as it comes to lung cancer, there is the association with smoking to be sure, yet more and more people who are not and were never smokers are being diagnosed every year. Part of this phenomenon is due to second-degree cigarette and tobacco smoke, no doubt, and even third-degree exposure can be dangerous. But another part just may be the other toxins and chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis, dangers whose harm we have yet to fully identify.

For mesothelioma, if your circle of friends has even heard of it, the suggestion may be less “you asked for it,” and more, “you could have done something different!”

Like: maybe you could have not worked at that factory or in that shipyard, Navy base or automotive shop. As if life were so simple!

There are several different ways to poke holes in these harmful stereotypes — to probe and look into why they could not be further from the truth. But, instead of poking holes and stating the obvious (that this was NOT your fault), we’d like to do something different and look at the industry lies that we’ve been exposed to, much like the tobacco fumes and the deadly asbestos fibers, for decades.



The association of smoking and lung cancer has been known since at least the 1950s when the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing the link between smoking and lung cancer. That link should have been reported in a mission-critical way to consumers because, in the 1950s, about half of the population of industrialized nations smoked. However, time went by and nothing was done. Instead, that now-infamous Surgeon General’s warning on the dangers associated with smoking was only first reported in 1964 and then mandated by Congress to appear on labels in 1965. But it did not matter for the industry. It was not until the late 1990s that the tobacco industry itself acknowledged the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Think an industry responsible for making a profit on their dangerous products should not have to be open about the product’s dangers? Lets look at the ads.

1940s: Craven “A:” “For Your Throat’s Sake”

1950s: Camels: “More doctors smoke Camel than any other cigarette.”

And then:

1990s: Virginia Slims: “Find Your Voice” (— as in, women could find their “independence” via smoking)

June 2000: the Virginia Slims slogan was finally removed in June 2000 due to its offensive language when seen by smokers with throat cancer. But the insulting messages still persist today — just look at the ads for the new smoking trend, e-cigarettes.

With smoking, we were told that it was good for our health, even, until news got out about its dangers and then we were told it could bring us independence, cool confidence, bravery, fun and thin bodies to boot. Of course, none of this was true. It was just advertising.


Now let’s look at asbestos.

At the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, the advertisements said:

Asbestos: We couldn’t live the way we do without it.

When life depends on it, you use asbestos.

Asbestos! The magic mineral“.

All that changed when the health repercussions of asbestos became known outside the secretive circle of asbestos product manufacturers.

However, while you might not find asbestos advertisements on TV or in magazines today, you may still hear asbestos promotions on much less likely, and much less public, sources: in Congress, for example, or in the Wall Street Journal or other pro-business publications that sometimes fail to recognize that people are just, if not more, important than business as usual.

Just like the tobacco industry, the asbestos industry is still alive and well — it just has to find less public ways of promoting itself and surviving. They do that by doing what they’ve always done: selling lies.

So what are the lies surrounding asbestos? There are many: We need asbestos for manufacturing and construction purposes; asbestos is a big business and crucial to our economy; mesothelioma patients are looking for a payday; their injuries are not all that bad or that they “did it to themselves.” by not using the product safely.

Of course this could not be further from the truth.

The truth is that those suffering from lung cancer (related to smoking or not) and mesothelioma are innocent victims whose “fault” was just believing the powerful words of industries that couldn’t be trusted.

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