Barb Tarbox- A Victim Of Smoking-Induced Lung Cancer Sends An Important Message To People Through Her Deathbed Images, Even After She Is Gone


Barb Tarbox's picture before she was diagnosed with the dreadful disease of lung cancer

Barb Tarbox's picture before she was diagnosed with the dreadful disease of lung cancer

According to an article published in LaTimes, Barb Tarbox, who died of lung cancer on May 18, 2003, at the age of 42, spend her final months to warn others about the dangers of smoking. From October 2002 to her final moments, she maintained a punishing schedule of public speeches to school children and teen groups.

Barb Tarbox could have been a model as she was six feet tall, willowy, had honey hair and deep blue eyes, when she was in her early 20’s in Ireland. She had to return to Canada to take care of her mother who also died at the age of 46 due to lung cancer because of smoking. Tarbox started smoking when she was 11 and didn’t stop even when she was warned by the doctors that she was at greater risk of cancer because of family history.

Barb’s husband Pat Tarbox, 53 years old restaurateur from Calgary said that she was a devoted mother of three kids. Her daughter Mackenzie was 9 years old at the time of her death, while her two sons Patrick and Michael had died earlier due to different reasons.

Within a month of learning that her cancer had spread to her brain and neck and was inoperable, Barb took her shame and grief on the road.

  • She warned any group that would invite her about health consequences on smoking.
  • She was very keen to share her story with young teens.
  • She sent a hard message to others that what had happened to her can happen to them.
  • She would draw the attention of people by sharing her tale with them about her life and looks before and after cancer diagnosis.

Barb wanted to warn others about the consequences of smoking through the pictures of her last days even after she was gone. She wanted others to learn a lesson from her that smoking can do great damage to health.

Picture submitted for FDA approval, taken 5 days before Barb succumed to lung cancer

Picture submitted for FDA approval, taken 5 days before Barb succumed to lung cancer

Food and Drug Association (FDA) considered one of her picture which was taken five days before her death, among the 36 images which would appear on every cigarette pack sold in United States starting in fall of 2012. But her picture was not selected among the nine images which will actually appear as warning signs on the cigarette packs.

Some scientists who study how public health messages work and don’t work were disappointed with FDA’s decision but some others supported it. Paul Slovic who is a pioneer in the field of health communications at University of Oregon said that people react to health messages very emotionally and when smokers are confronted with images which make them feel unlovable, unhealthy, unappealing or ashamed, they are most likely to quit. He said that a disturbing image of a cancer patient at the death’s door is a perfect counter to tobacco advertising.

FDA reported in its final ruling that Tarbox’s image went too far for some people who offered feedback to FDA. Some commented that the image was too sensational while others said that it offends human diginity.

How were the images chosen by FDA

  • How well the images mesh with text that was dictated in advance by the congress
  • Some images should be encouraging
  • Some images should be cautionary
  • Some images should make you wince

Canada has different choices of images from FDA. The warnings that appear on the cigarette packs have not changed since 2001, that is the warnings do not attract people’s attention any more. Geoffrey Fong who is a psychologist at Waterloo University in Ontario said that people who avoid the warning labels are less likely to quit than people who are attracted to them. He said that he hoped US to adopt Tarbox’s image as it represents misery of a smoking-related death.

Canadian government has selected the picture of Barb Tarbox to be one of the new warning images that would appear on the cigarette packs which are sold in Canada. The text which has been selected for her image reads “This is what dying of lung cancer looks like.”

It might get a little annoying for smokers to look at the picture after some time, but that was Barb’s dream to touch a few more people even after she was gone.

Listed below are some clinical trials investigating new treatments for smoking induced lung cancer. 
[LIST_TRIALS condition=”lung cancer”]

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