Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Big Sale at the Cancer Society

Advertising deals casts a shadow over a worthy organization

August 25, 1996

The American Cancer Society has strayed into ethically dubious territory by selling its endorsement to two commercial products. For royalties of at least $1 million a year over the next three years, the society, which funds cancer research, will allow SmithKline Beecham PLC, a major British drug manufacturer, to use its logo on NicoDerm CQ advertising and packaging. NicoDerm CQ is a patch worn on the arm that seeps nicotine into the bodies of smokers who are trying to quit. In addition, for another $1 million a year, the society will sell its endorsement to Florida citrus marketers to promote orange juice.

The troubling aspects of this venture are obvious. Foremost is the threat to the society's credibility. Does putting a price tag on its endorsement suggest that the highest bidder wins the imprimatur? It's one thing for the society or the American Heart Assn. or similar groups to lend their approval to a product for educational purposes. To sell that approval for hard cash puts a different light on motivations.

Worrisome too is the exclusivity implicit in these endorsements. The society of course should promote quitting smoking. But what if a more effective nicotine patch should appear sometime in the next three years? NicoDerm CQ would still have sole right to display the society's logo. The society also is right to encourage a healthy diet, which is now generally accepted as a major preventive measure against some cancers. But should Florida orange juice be uniquely certified as part of an overall healthy diet? Is orange juice from California or Brazil or wherever to be regarded as unworthy?

The cancer society says it went into the endorsement-selling business because donations to its $427-million budget haven't been growing. Concern over that, while understandable, does not justify its ill-considered decision.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|