CDC Launching Graphic Anti-Smoking Ad Campaign

Tobacco taxes and smoking bans haven't budged the U.S. smoking rate in years. Now the government is trying to shock smokers into quitting with a graphic nationwide advertising campaign.

The billboards and print, radio and TV ads show people whose smoking resulted in heart surgery, a tracheotomy, lost limbs or paralysis. The $54 million campaign is the largest and starkest anti-smoking push by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its first national advertising effort.

The agency is hoping the spots, which begin Monday, will persuade as many as 50,000 Americans to stop smoking.

"This is incredibly important. It's not every day we release something that will save thousands of lives," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a telephone interview.

That bold prediction is based on earlier research that found aggressive anti-smoking campaigns using hard-hitting images sometimes led to decreases in smoking. After decades of decline, the U.S. smoking rate has stalled at about 20 percent in recent years.

Advocates say it's important to jolt a weary public that has been listening to government warnings about the dangers of smoking for nearly 50 years.

"There is an urgent need for this media campaign," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.

The CDC was set to announce the three-month campaign on Thursday.

One of the print ads features Shawn Wright from Washington state who had a tracheotomy after being diagnosed with head and neck cancer four years ago. The ad shows the 50-year-old shaving, his razor moving down toward a red gaping hole at the base of his neck that he uses to speak and breathe.

An advertising firm, Arnold Worldwide, found Wright and about a dozen others who developed cancer or other health problems after smoking for the ads.

Federal health agencies have gradually embraced graphic anti-smoking imagery. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved nine images to be displayed on cigarette packages. Among them were a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, and a diseased mouth with what appear to be cancerous lesions.

Last month, a federal judge blocked the requirement that tobacco companies put the images on their packages, saying it was unconstitutional.

Graphic ads are meant to create an image so striking that smokers and would-be smokers will think of it whenever they have an urge to buy a pack of cigarettes, said Glenn Leshner, a University of Missouri researcher who has studied the effectiveness of anti-smoking ads.

Leshner and his colleagues found that some ads are so disturbing that people reacted by turning away from the message rather than listening. So while spots can shock viewers into paying attention, they also have to encourage people that quitting is possible, he said.

The CDC campaign includes information on a national quit line and offers advice on how to kick the habit, CDC officials said.


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  • by Connie Location: Greenville on Mar 15, 2012 at 05:38 PM
    WITN did you ever see a body of an alcoholic who died of Cirrosis of the Liver? or the body of a woman's body and face had been badly beaten up by an angry alcoholic? ever looked in the eye of a child that had been abused by his/here alcohol consuming father? ....I did! I worked in several hospitals and sadly had to witness. Go take pictures of this woman and children and put it on the liquor bottles at the ABC stores..oh and don't forget to ad the victims of drunk drivers on the bottles too! Therefore the body on your profile does not bother me at all! Thanks
    • reply
      by Formerly O.L.I. on Mar 16, 2012 at 05:27 AM in reply to Connie
      You make a valid point.
  • by Bet Location: Greenville on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:19 PM
    Wonder how much it would cost the cigarette manufacturers in political donations to the Obama administration to pull the ads? Is this a shake-down? When the tobacco tax dries up, tax political contributions. Let the politicians pay for a change.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:17 PM
    We are all grown adults and should be able to make our own choices. It is crazy to me that people always say something about second hand smoke, but nobody says anything about second hand drinking, you know, the kind that kills people who dont drink. Think about it.
  • by Smoker on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:00 PM
    Glad I've saved alot of regular cigarette packs, I can transfer the smokes out of this offensive looking container. Hope this campaign is a colossal waste of money.
  • by Smoker on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:00 PM
    Glad I've saved alot of regular cigarette packs, I can transfer the smokes out of this offensive looking container. Hope this campaign is a colossal waste of money.
  • by beachbunny on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:35 PM
    My sister died of lung cancer and she didn't smoke and wasn't around second hand smoke...its gonna happen...we will die
  • by Stupid on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM
    This is so stupid. Everyone knows that smoking can kill you. And so can choking on a chickent bone, not looking both ways before you cross the street, dating the wrong man, red meat.....need I go on. Everybody is going to die from something. This is just a waste of money.
    • reply
      by Brandi on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:02 PM in reply to Stupid
      Agreed. Couldn't have said it better!!
    • reply
      by RAPPER on Mar 15, 2012 at 06:03 PM in reply to Stupid
      You are correct. So if the ad doesn't chamge your mind,just keep on puffing ! It's called freedome of speech and the advertising can be used to express an opinion or fact !
  • by Anonymous on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM
    I guess they will put a picture of a dead man on Red meat next!!
  • by Anonymous on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:58 AM
    Being born alive can kill you at some point in life. Should we stop all live births from happening?
  • by The Original ENC Location: enc on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:35 AM
    I like them. Smoking is nasty, hurts the smoker and those around them. I never understood the concept of inhaling smoke intentionally - usually something we try to avoid when a house is on fire or near a bonfire/grill. And don't worry...they'll find something to tax, when the tax base dries up.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:35 AM in reply to The Original ENC
      The point, is we santion the government to control our lives when we support this type government advertisements. Nanny knows best. Seems most of us know getting fat and a whole slew of things make the same picture you see of the man in the box. I guess they could reuse it for obesity, texting, driving, swimmng....the list goes on.
      • reply
        by Learn to spell and use grammar on Mar 15, 2012 at 02:14 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        before you attempt to sound smart.....
      • reply
        by RAPPER on Mar 15, 2012 at 06:04 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        You are correct. So if the ad doesn't chamge your mind,just keep on puffing ! It's called freedome of speech and the advertising can be used to express an opinion or fact .
    • reply
      by Formerly O.L.I. on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM in reply to The Original ENC
      100 yrs. ago, gentlemen smoked pipes after dinner, only gently puffing on them. Today, people are actually 'huffing' the smoke, sucking it down, and it does cause tremendous damage to the lungs, throat. I smoked too, but quit over 11 yrs. ago, thank goodness. I went cold turkey after the second bought with Pneumonia. I haven't had a coughing cold since, though I spent months getting rid of the 'Smoker's Cough' then (It's the one where smokers cough up phlegm each a.m. upon waking). Now, no more coughing, pretty much cold-free, and no more expensive trips for cartons of ciggy's. I pray other smokers will discover the same freedom from these 'cancer sticks' that I have. In hind sight? It really does look dumb to see people sit inhaling smoke and dumping ashes every 2 seconds.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 20, 2012 at 03:48 AM in reply to Formerly O.L.I.
        Good for you! My mother was a smoker since her teens. She tried many times to quit, such as using patches or weaning herself down. It wasn't until when she discovered she had emphysema that she had to quit cold turkey. For many months, every trash can in the house smelled like spearmint or cinnamon after all the gum she chewed.
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