A Tip From a Former Smoker: Terrie, a frail, bald and toothless 51-year-old woman explains to viewers in her achingly raspy smoker voice how she gets ready for her day. We see her putting in false teeth, adjusting her wig and placing her hands-free voice box on her throat before she ties a scarf around her neck to cover the hole there. Such a hole is usually the result of a laryngectomy, surgery that removes cancer-ridden parts of the throat.
The 30-second PSA is part of a $54 million campaign called Tips From Former Smokers launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday. Using graphic, true-to-life images, the ads are intended to shock people into giving up their smoking habit.
The campaign is an attempt to counter the more than $100 billion that tobacco companies spend on marketing and promotion, but is “a drop in the bucket in terms of what it’s going to cost us when compared to what tobacco companies are spending to market cigarettes,” said Dr. Tim McAffee, director of the office on smoking and health at the CDC.
“They will spend in two days what we will spend in one year to combat their marketing,” continued McAffee. “We need to make sure the American people understand the risks instead of receiving information from marketing campaigns that are carefully crafted to promote cigarette smoking.”
For its part, the Atria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, told ABCNews.com that the company agrees smoking is addictive and causes serious disease and, for those who want to avoid the health effects of smoking, the best thing to do is to quit.
“We support a three-part approach to reducing the harm caused by cigarette smoking: preventing underage tobacco use, promoting quitting and a focus on the development of and appropriate communications about potentially lower risk tobacco products,” the company said in a statement. “We believe we can play an important role in this effort and will continue to work with the FDA and others in public health to help reduce the overall harm of tobacco products.”
The CDC’s anti-smoking advertising blitz has been in the works for more than a year, but the it decided to launch it now — the ads begin to run Monday — after a recent surgeon general’s report found that the decline in smoking had slowed in adults and come to a virtual halt in young people.
About 3 million American high school students and more than 45 million adults smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the CDC.
CDC health officials analyzed the impact of graphic smoking advertising campaigns throughout different states and countries, said McAffee. The shocking and uncomfortable photos and videos of former smokers seem to convey the dangers of smoking in a way that encourages people to quit.
“Most smokers know they’re going to shorten their lives from smoking, but a lot don’t realize that smoking does not just kill but leads to long-term suffering,” said McAfee.
They hope that the billboards, radio, print and TV ads will sway up to 500,000 Americans to quit smoking.
“We expect over half a million people to be inspired and encouraged to quit and about 50,000 to quit permanently after seeing these ads,” said McAffee. “We have scientific evidence that shows that these graphic ads can be successful in getting the word out for people to quit.”