RAHWAY, NJ: Merck launched a campaign on Wednesday encouraging people at high risk for lung cancer to get screened annually.
The campaign, Focus on Your Lungs: A Screening You Don’t Want to Miss, features two models who used to smoke and a celebrity chef who lost his brother to lung cancer.
In video testimonials, the three figures share their feelings about lung cancer, which is the second-most-common cancer and the leading cause of death from cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends lung-cancer screenings for people who smoke or used to smoke, even if they don’t have signs or symptoms, in which case, there’s a chance to detect the disease early.
The campaign from Merck, a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey, features a website with a screening eligibility quiz, a caregiver discussion guide, screening myths and an insurance guide, among other materials. The company worked with Real Chemistry on the campaign, which launched on Wednesday morning.
Merck, which makes Keytruda, a prescription medicine to treat lung cancer, also conducted a campaign in 2021 encouraging people to get screened for lung cancer.
One video features Andre Rush, an Army veteran who served as a White House chef under four administrations. He talks about his relationship with his brother, who inspired him to become a chef and later died from lung cancer.
Rush tried to get him to quit smoking and to get screened.
“I said, ‘I want you around. I don't want to lose you,’” Rush, who is Black, said in the video.
Rush targeted his message at the Black community, members of which are more likely to die from lung cancer than white Americans, according to the American Lung Association. Latinos are also less likely to survive than white Americans, according to the organization.
“We recognize there are disparities among certain communities, including the Black and Hispanic populations, in addition to commonly believed stigmas when it comes to lung cancer,” said Ali Kresge, executive director of consumer marketing for Merck Oncology, via email. “Because of this, it was important to partner with authentic voices that could help reach these communities. Our campaign spokespeople are diverse influencers who share their personal experiences to help break down the barriers to lung cancer screening.”
Rush said in the video that he does “not think the Black American community is well-informed about lung cancer” and screenings. A screening “only takes about an hour of your time. It’s easy; it's painless, and if you're not going to do it for you, do it for your loved ones.”
Merck is planning to promote the campaign through lung-cancer advocacy groups, digital paid media, social media and news coverage, Kresge said.
The other videos were from Garrett Swann, a model and founder of a men’s underwear brand, and Veronica Webb, a model and influencer.
“When I got to the Paris fashion world, smoking was a big part of what people did, and it was also an era [in which] there was nothing to stop you from smoking,” said Webb, who is Black, in her video. She later quit and underwent a screening for lung cancer.
“It's scary to get these screenings because you think, ‘Oh my god, what if something really is wrong?’ But putting your head in the sand and saying, ‘I would rather not know,’ you don't have a chance if you do that,” said Webb.
Swann said that for him “alcohol and cigarettes were just the perfect combination,” he said “That martini with a cigarette — it was kind of like this Cary Grant movie moment.”
He encouraged people to get screened despite their anxieties because “if I know that something could potentially be harmful or I can fight something, I would rather fight it now that I have the energy.”