CDC’s new campaign against tobacco, portraying the health risks of smoking in unpleasant detail, seems to have achieved the desired goal, with health officials saying that it has led to a doubling of calls to a toll-free number that helps people quit cigarettes. www.smokefree.gov website a smoking cessation service witnessed their largest jump in traffic in 7 years. The website says that it “rose from about 20,000 to about 66,000.” Calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, witnessed a quantum leap, from its previous week of around 14,500 calls, receiving in excess of 33,000 calls, in the week following the ads.
According to estimates by the CDC, a little more than 45 million Americans smoke. Although this reflects a significant decline, the smoking rates have not changed and remain constant at 20%. The most vulnerable group are the teens, who for various reasons are not easily convinced about the dangers of smoking. According to a report, on youth smoking, released by the U.S. surgeon general, one in four high school seniors regularly smoke cigarettes. The CDC is expectant that the new campaign, that leaves nothing to the imagination, will not only dissuade adults from smoking but also encourage teens to quit.
The campaign shows people struggling with life-altering diseases caused by smoking. The images are hard to look at and depict people suffering from cancer, paralysis and cardiac attacks. In the ads, former smokers also talk of the perils of smoking and offer advice on how to quit. “These are real Americans telling real stories,” says Thomas Frieden, director of CDC. Frieden agrees that the graphic images are hard to look at but they are effective and serve the purpose for which they are designed. “Ads like this save lives,” he says. “They pull back the curtain and show people what I and other doctors see, which is the suffering, disability, disfigurement and death” caused by smoking.
Meanwhile Public-health organizations have welcomed the CDC’s ads. Cheryl Healton, president of Legacy, an anti-smoking group, said, “This campaign will absolutely be a national conversation starter, finally, the level of public attention given the tobacco issue will be commensurate with the loss of life resulting from it.”
Smoking causes around 443,000 deaths every year and almost 9 million Americans suffer from smoking related ailments. Smokers cough up around $2000 more than non-smokers for health-insurance as medical health insurers charge smokers a higher premium than non-smokers. Thomas Frieden, director of CDC calls the campaign’s, $54 million cost, “drop in the bucket” compared with the “more than $10 billion the tobacco industry spends each year to market its products.”Graphic CDC Ads Exhort Smokers Not To Puff Their Lives Away by Harrison Barnes