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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just launched a national mass media campaign to educate the public about the harmful effects of smoking and to encourage quitting. The campaign is called "Tips From Former Smokers" and features real people who have experienced a variety of illnesses stemming from tobacco use, including cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma, and Buerger's disease. The ads not only show the toll that these smoking-related illnesses have taken on these individuals' lives—e.g., losing one's natural voice, experiencing paralysis, having a lung removed or limbs amputated—but they also provide encouragement to quit and information on how to access free help.
The "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign provides a unique and compelling perspective on the significant damage smoking causes to individuals—a perspective not often captured in statistics about the hundreds of thousands of deaths and the illnesses caused by tobacco. None of the individuals featured in the ads are actors. They are real people who used to smoke and became sick as a result. Most of them were diagnosed with smoking-related illnesses when they were relatively young—many in their 30s and 40s; one was only 18. They speak from experience, and all have volunteered to share their stories to send a single, powerful message: Quit smoking now. Or better yet—don't start.
The ads provide firsthand accounts of the health consequences of smoking. For example, Shane, from Wisconsin, was only in his 30s when he developed cancer of the esophagus and had to have his larynx removed. Brandon, a young man from North Dakota, had both his legs amputated in his early 20s as a result of Buerger's disease, a condition that cuts off blood flow primarily to the hands and feet and is strongly linked to cigarette smoking. Suzy, one of the women featured in the ads, is partially paralyzed after suffering a stroke caused by smoking and is dependent on caregivers, one of whom is her 23-year-old son. These and other stories in the "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign provide stark evidence of how damage from smoking can impact quality of life—for the rest of one's life. The people featured in this campaign showed incredible courage and commitment when telling their story, and all shared a common goal of inspiring and motivating others to take steps to quit smoking.
For the past 30 years, there has been no federally funded, comprehensive, mass-media campaign effort (i.e., that includes TV, radio, billboard, magazine, newspaper, theater, and online placements) to educate the public about the harmful effects of smoking and to encourage quitting. This has been detrimental to tobacco control and prevention efforts, particularly given the slowed decline in cigarette smoking rates over the past decade. To compound matters, states and communities currently are experiencing diminishing resources to conduct tobacco education campaigns. The "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign is an important and valuable step in countering the efforts of the tobacco industry, whose expenditures for marketing and promoting cigarettes exceed $1 million an hour—more than $27 million a day—in the United States.
Scientific evidence indicates that hard-hitting, graphic, and emotionally impactful campaigns work. The most effective smoking-cessation advertisements depict the health risks and emotional impact of long-term tobacco use, encourage smokers to quit, and provide information on how to quit. For example, one of the ads gives voice to three former smokers who provide tips on how they successfully quit. Each tip, such as throwing away their cigarettes and ashtrays, exercising, identifying a strong reason to quit, and "just keep trying," has been shown to help. All of the ads contain a very clear and encouraging message to smokers that they CAN quit and that free resources are available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or accessing www.smokefree.gov.
It has been nearly 50 years since the release of the first Surgeon General's report on the health risks of smoking. Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the United States and costs our nation billions of dollars every year.
Despite the known dangers of tobacco use, nearly one in five adults in the United States still smokes, and each day, about 1,000 people younger than 18 years of age begin smoking on a daily basis. The health and financial consequences are staggering:
Most smokers—nearly 70%—say they plan to quit, and half make a serious attempt for a day or longer each year. The "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign was designed to create a sense of immediacy about the damage smoking causes to encourage people to stop smoking now or not to start.
The campaign ads will run nationally for 12 weeks beginning Monday, March 19, and include television, radio, billboard, magazine, newspaper, theater, and online placements. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other channels will help spread the campaign's messages more broadly, particularly among younger audiences.
For more information about the "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign, including profiles of the former smokers, other campaign resources, and links to the ads, visit www.cdc.gov/quitting/tips.
For free quit support, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669; TTY 1-800-332-8615). This service provides free support and advice from experienced counselors, a personalized quit plan, self-help materials, the latest information about cessation medications, and more.
Cessation services and resources are also available online at www.smokefree.gov, www.women.smokefree.gov, and in Spanish at http://espanol.smokefree.gov. These Web sites provide free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking. Also refer to the National Cancer Institute's new smoke-free teen initiative, www.teen.smokefree.gov.