Nothing gets the Internet talking like viral cat videos, and now a new anti-smoking ad has tapped into people's love of funny cats in the name of health education — a move that experts say is a good one.
The ad, which aired during the Grammys this week, features a montage of beloved cat videos, from a feline riding a Roomba, to a kitty fake-playing a keyboard. But along with this cuteness comes an unexpected public health message: Smoking near your pet is hazardous to its health.
"Cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owner smokes," proclaims a voice in the video, which was produced by a nonprofit organization called the Truth Initiative. "Smoking = no cats = no cat videos," the video warns. The ad encourages viewers to "Be the generation that ends smoking."
The ad generated a buzz on Twitter, with the hashtag "#catmageddon." Tobacco control and public health experts said they were pleased with the video.
"It's very clever," said Andrea Spatarella, a nurse practitioner at Northwell Health's Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, New York. Smokers with pets are often surprised to learn that a tobacco habit can affect animals too, she said.
The new video "may bring awareness to somebody that they're not only damaging their own heath, but [also] damaging the health of a pet they love dearly," Spatarella said. [Kick the Habit: 10 Scientific Quit-Smoking Tips]
And it's true that some studies show that cats exposed to secondhand smoke have double the risk of feline lymphoma, Spatarella said. Feline lymphoma is a cancer of a cat's lymph system, and is generally not curable.
Dr. Seema Yasmin, a public health professor and medical analyst for CNN, also tweeted, "This is how you do public health education. Look and learn #CATmageddon"