Polonium 210 TV ad pulled to save widow's feelings
LONDON - The Department of Health has scrapped plans for a £50,000 TV ad revealing that cigarettes contain the radioactive poison polonium-210, the substance that killed Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, to spare his family's feelings.
The ad was scheduled to air before Litvinenko died, and was one in the series entitled 'Smoke is Poison', for charity Cancer Research UK.
Part of the investigative-style campaign was to show TV undercover reporter Donal Macintyre in a hospital X-ray unit asking a radiographer how he protects himself from radioactivity. Macintyre says "Did you know inhaling cigarette smoke could expose you to particles of radioactive polonium?" The doctor answers that he did not.
Sara Hiom, deputy director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "We had filmed a selection of TV ads for the Smoke is Poison campaign, one of which mentioned polonium-210. In light of recent unforeseen events and in consultation with the Department of Health we took the decision not to air the polonium advert at this time. Information about polonium in relation to the campaign does feature elsewhere such as on the campaign website smokeispoison.com."
However, it has been rumoured that the move has angered some at Cancer Research UK. According to reports in several daily national papers, a source in Cancer Research UK said: "It's a complete cop-out by the Government. The whole idea was to stop people smoking and dying of cancer. What better way than telling them this highly poisonous radioactive substance is found in fags? People have the right to know."
Dare Films, the production company behind the Macintyre Investigates series, was commissioned to create two TV and two radio ads to highlight the effects of a variety of dangerous substances within cigarettes, including benzene and formaldehyde.
Producer Michael Simkin said: "We were rather cross the ad had been pulled. However, we are still hopeful to get the ad out there via the web and get the message across that way. If we could do this via a viral campaign, I think it would be a good way of letting people know that polonium-210 is in cigarettes."
Cancer Research UK is to release a more detailed statement at 5pm today.
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