The claim: Pictures show real advertisements for heroin, other dangerous products
The emergence of COVID-19, a year of lockdowns and limitations and the vaccine rollout have caused the “most substantive large-scale, open, and public social discussion of epidemiology and science in recent history,” according to a June 2020 study in the journal Public Health.
Americans have been asked for an unprecedented level of change and cooperation as governments and the scientific community figured out how to address a generational pandemic.
“More shutdowns are avoidable, but the public needs to trust science,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, said at Harvard University last year.
But many have pushed back against that notion, including the person behind a May 6 Facebook post that features four images along with text reading, “A historical retrospective on the phrase: Trust the Science,” presented as a critique of the concept.
The images show advertisements that promote the use of nicotine during pregnancy, the use of insecticide DDT to keep babies free of flies, the use of “heroin hydrochloride” by a physician’s order, and the use of asbestos as an option for building insulation.
The post has been shared more than 150 times. USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.
We took a closer look and found that three of the images are indeed real, but the fourth originated in a video game.
Nico Time cigarettes ad is fake
A “Nico Time” advertisement that promotes smoking during pregnancy is fake. It was posted in a Fandom page called “BioShock Wiki,” which is dedicated to the video game series BioShock. The site wrote that the advertisement was designed by Kat Berkley, a concept artist who worked on the game.
DDT poster is real
DDT was “the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And a poster promoting it as an insect protectant for children is real.
The Gallery of Graphic Design said it appeared in the Jun 1, 1946, edition of Woman’s Day magazine. The group compiles graphic art from the 1930s to the 1960s.
It was an advertisement for the insecticide company Black Flag, which produced DDT. The full poster is accompanied by a caption that says the substance is preferred by housewives for killing flies and mosquitoes and emphasizes that it “stays on walls, floors, doorways to keep on killing flies for weeks!”
According to the EPA, DDT was initially used with great effect to combat malaria and typhus, as well as other insect-borne human diseases among military and civilian populations. It was also used effectively as insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes and gardens.
The U.S. banned the use of DDT in 1972 after finding it was harmful to humans in high doses, but it is still used in some countries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘Heroin hydrochloride’ ad is real
An advertisement that promotes “Heroin hydrochloride” from The Bayer Co. is also real.
A century ago, scientists at a German pharmaceutical company chemically modified morphine to make it easier to take as a cough suppressant, according to the Yale School of Medicine. The Bayer Co. marketed the drug as “Heroin” and started production in 1898 on a commercial scale. By 1912 it had become a recreational drug.
In 1914, the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act aimed to regulate the use of opium, a key ingredient in heroin, in the U.S.
In 1920, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution that said heroin should be “eliminated from all medicinal preparations” and prohibited for sale in the United States.
That was nearly three decades before the CDC was created.
Asbestos ad is real
The asbestos advertisement is real.
The ad has a “JM” logo, which stands for Johns Manville, an insulation manufacturer.
The ad can be found on the Asbestos Institute website with the caption “Johns-Manville pamphlet portraying asbestos as the ‘Magic Mineral of the Middle Ages.'” It identifies the pamphlet as being from 1937.
In 1990, the company was involved in a series of lawsuits as hundreds of plaintiffs alleged they had suffered from inhaling asbestos at the Brooklyn Navy Yard 25 years prior.
The website for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says people “occupationally exposed to asbestos have developed several types of life-threatening diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.”
Our rating: Partly false
The claim that the four images of advertisements are real, is PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. Three of the four ads are indeed real and were promoted in the past, but one is from a video game.
Our fact-checking sources:
- Facebook post, May 6
- ScienceDirect, June 1, 2020, “Assessing changes in US public trust in science amid the COVID-19 pandemic“
- WBUR, Aug. 6, 2020, “More Shutdowns Are Avoidable, But The Public Needs To Trust Science, Dr. Fauci Says At Harvard“
- ScienceDirect, Jan. 1, 2021, “Revenge of the experts: Will COVID-19 renew or diminish public trust in science?“
- BioShock Wiki, Nico-Time, accessed May 12
- Kat Berkley, accessed May 12
- CDC, “Smoking, Pregnancy, and Babies,” accessed May 12
- CDC, “E-Cigarettes and Pregnancy,” accessed May 12
- CDC, “Smoking During Pregnancy,” accessed May 12
- EPA, “DDT – A Brief History and Status,” accessed May 12
- CDC, “Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) Factsheet,” accessed May 12
- Yale School of Medicine, Jan. 15, 1999, “From cough medicine to deadly addiction, a century of heroin and drug-abuse policy“
- National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2001, “The history of heroin“
- United Nations, Jan. 1, 1953, “History of Heroin“
- CDC, “Our History – Our Story,” accessed May 12
- Coalition against Bayer Dangers, Nov. 14, 2011, KEYCODE BAYER 510
- Business Insider, Nov. 17, 2011, Yes, Bayer Promoted Heroin for Children — Here Are The Ads That Prove It
- Johns Manville website
- The Asbestos Institute, March 6, 2015, “What is asbestos?“
- Times Machine, New York Times, July 8, 1990, The Bitter Fight Over the Manville Trust, accessed May 12
- CDC, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “ASBESTOS,” accessed May 12
- CDC, Notable Milestones in NIOSH History, accessed May 20
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