Every time I see the “Suzy” anti-smoking ad, those words come out of my mouth. And every time I say that my wife says to me, “You shouldn’t hate it, you should dislike it”. But really I hate it! The more I see it, the more I get offended. If the TV remote is close enough I’ll push the mute button so I don’t have to hear it.
During my rehabilitation, when I realized we were going to have to have someone come into our house every morning to do my morning hygiene and dress me I was mortified. Over my first 55 years I had become a very private person and carefully controlled the parts of myself I revealed to others. Now someone was going to be injected into my life, invading the most private parts of me. Embarrassment and humility are among the earliest casualties when a person is disabled by quadriplegia. We are so fortunate to have two wonderful nurses and a third available when necessary. My primary nurse, Rhonda, has been with us over 13 years, and she and her children have become part of our family. JoAnn, our weekend nurse, has been working for us about six years, and she too has become an important member of our family. They are both able to walk the very fine line that separates professional intimacy from demeaning embarrassment. My morning routine is the same every day, but somehow mentally, I have adjusted to the invasion of my privacy.
The “Suzy” ad verbalizes the most degrading aspects of this type of dependency which is probably much different for a man than a woman. It shines a light for everyone to see the most humiliating aspect of being so dependent. “Suzy” arrived at her condition as a result of conscious choices she made. When I was in my early 20s my wife and I both stopped smoking when the dangerous aspects of the habit were revealed. On the other hand, at the age of 55, I was struck by an ocean wave while standing in waist deep water with over 100 other people resulting in my quadriplegia. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation estimates there are over 1,275,000 people with spinal cord injury in the United States with the numbers growing daily. Add to this countless victims of stroke and other causes resulting in paralysis. Why should this ad offend and expose those people to embarrassment, humiliation and sadness by reinforcing their own dependency. At the end of the ad “Suzy” does not even express regret for her decision to smoke or the circumstances she finds herself in, but rather tells people “My tip to you is to enjoy your independence now”. Is this the message intended by the Center for Disease Control and the creators of such an advertisement?
One would think the CDC, which is run by the government, could find a less offensive way to discourage smoking and spend taxpayers’ money. It seems the purpose of the message should encourage viewers to give up the habit of smoking or not to start, rather than to “enjoy your independence now.” I would certainly hope so.