Cancer Research faces 'fat-shaming' backlash over obesity campaign

Charity has again been accused of 'fat-shaming' with latest ads.

Cancer Research: poster graffitied at Richmond Tube station in London
Cancer Research: poster graffitied at Richmond Tube station in London

Cancer Research UK is facing fresh backlash after reviving its controversial obesity campaign, which highlights excess weight as a cause of cancer. 

Created by Anomaly London, "Obesity is a cause of cancer too" launched this month and features ads resembling cigarette packs with warnings about obesity and cancer risk. The executions follow last year's activity, which identified obesity as the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and included fake cigarette packets containing chips that were handed out to shoppers.

As with last year's campaign, some members of the public have accused Cancer Research of spreading a "fat-shaming" message. 

"I genuinely don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Cancer Research's horrific obesity campaign will kill people," one Twitter user remarked. 

"Cancer Research UK has again stirred the fat-hate pot with another careless anti-obesity campaign," another commented.

A group of health professionals in the UK has also penned an open letter calling for an end to the campaign end as well as a petition, which has almost 9,000 signatories at the time of writing (9 July).

Responding to criticism on Twitter, a spokesperson for Cancer Research said: "Obesity is a complex issue with many causes, but one of the biggest influences is that the world we live in makes being healthy difficult.

"It is a key time to remind MPs and policymakers why action to reduce obesity, particularly in children, is important and why reducing children’s exposure to junk-food advertising should be a key part of that."

"Obesity is a cause of cancer too" calls for the UK government to take urgent action to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 – a goal the charity thinks can be achieved through restricting pre-watershed junk-food advertising, which is largely aimed towards children.

According to figures released by Cancer Research, people who are obese now outnumber people who smoke by two to one in the UK, with almost a third (29%, or 14.9 million people) of UK adults obese.

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