We live in a world where it’s OK to pay for television air time to communicate your message, no matter how thinly veiled and extreme, to a gullible, worrisome audience.

The latest offender is The Cancer Project and its commercial exploiting children to convince America that schools are feeding them carcinogenic meat products (particularly hot dogs).

The ad uses a study on adults — not children — to make its point that processed meats lead to higher odds of getting colon cancer. Furthermore, the writing of the spot misleads viewers into thinking the children actually have cancer, until the third child talks about her husband and family.

Personally, I find the entire commercial offensive, as it completely oversimplifies the odds of getting cancer. I’ve had several family members, including an eight-year-old cousin, die of cancer, and my Dad just beat prostate cancer this summer — they didn’t get cancer because of one specific factor.

When I asked my Dad if he thought hot dogs had contributed to his chances of getting cancer, he said, laughing, “It depends which ones I ate.” Then, in seriousness, he said, “No, I can’t say that I think eating hot dogs was to blame.”

The commercial may be 33 seconds long, but it makes cancer prevention seem so simple, mentioning nothing of the influence of a balanced diet and lifestyle, exercise and genetics. If The Cancer Project is indeed promoting “cancer prevention,” as its Web site says, then they ought to promote balance rather than a vegetarian lifestyle.

The fact that most every male ancestor of mine has contracted (and in many cases, died from) cancer, is more worrisome to me than the fact that I eat hot dogs occasionally. I’d rather see The Cancer Project devote its funds to finding a cure for cancer than throw alarmist prevention methods at the populace.

In the meantime, you can bet on this: I won’t be shunning hot dogs at the ballpark, at barbecues and in my own home, and I won’t tell my six-month-old son that he can’t have a hot dog. However, because of this commercial, I’ll have to explain to him when he’s older that the children did not get cancer because of the hot dog they ate.

So, thank you, The Cancer Project, for pushing your vegetarian agenda into my home. Next time, look for a better way to promote change in school-nutrition programs than scare tactics.