Ad campaign shows smoking's scary side

Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:38pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. health officials launched a $54 million advertising campaign on Thursday depicting the health risks of smoking in gruesome detail, offering the latest salvo in the government's campaign to deglamorize cigarette smoking.

The 12-week advertising blitz, called "Tips From Former Smokers," is an effort to counteract the estimated $10.5 billion a year spent by tobacco companies to market and promote cigarettes in the United States.

"This is really a David versus Goliath fight. The tobacco industry has spent more than $100 billion on marketing and promotion. They continue to spend more than $10 billion a year. That's a million dollars every hour," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a telephone interview.

Some 8 million Americans have smoking-related illnesses, and as many as 443,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related causes. And while U.S. health officials have succeeded in getting many smokers to quit, recent evidence suggests the message is not getting through to America's youth.

According to the U.S. surgeon general's report on youth smoking released last week, one in four high school seniors is a regular cigarette smoker, and because few high school smokers are able to quit, some 80 percent will continue to smoke as adults.

"For every person who dies from smoking, at least two new young smokers take their place," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, said at a news briefing launching the campaign.

She said the ads - a combination of paid advertising and public service announcements - are intended to encourage smokers to quit and to build awareness for the damage caused by smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.

"The ad campaign we are launching today will tell the real story. The courageous individuals who volunteered to be in this campaign lost lungs, legs, fingers and the ability to speak as a result of smoking's toll," she said.   Continued...

An ash try with cigarette butts is pictured in Hinzenbach, in the Austrian province of Upper Austria, February 5, 2012. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner