Scary Anti-smoking Ad Campaign Helps Get 100,000 to Quit, CDC Says

Monday, 09 Sep 2013 05:36 PM

By David Ogul

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A government-funded, scary anti-smoking ad campaign meant to shock people with graphic depictions of tobacco’s dangers has helped 100,000 or more Americans kick the nicotine habit, researchers say.

The Centers for Disease Control crafted the ads after meeting with smokers. An estimated 1.6 million Americans tried to quit and at least 100,000 likely succeeded, USA Today reported, because of the ads that showed real ex-smokers who had suffered from paralysis, stroke, heart attacks, amputated limbs, or lost lungs.

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The first round of ads ran in the spring of 2012, and a second round ran this past spring. A third round is planned for next year, USA Today said.

The ads are meant to make people uncomfortable, and they can be viewed on the Centers for Disease Control website.

“I wish we could make upbeat, happy ads,” Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, told USA Today. But that’s not what smokers said would motivate them to quit.

The CDC’s study was published in the medical journal The Lanclet. It surveyed a randomly selected group of more than 3,000 smokers and some 2,220 nonsmokers before and after the first campaign. Before the campaign started, 31 percent of smokers said they had tried to give up the habit at least once in the previous three months. That number went up to 35 percent after the campaign. About 13 percent said they succeeded.

Erika Sward, an assistant vice president of national advocacy at the American Lung Association, told USA Today that what surprised her was the large number — more than 35 percent — of nonsmokers who talked to friends or family about the dangers of smoking after the campaign. Less than one-third of nonsmokers had done so before the campaign.

The series of ads is called Tips From Former Smokers. Among the subjects is an 18-year-old with an oxygen mask in the hospital because of second-hand smoke and a 57-year-old heart attack victim showing a scar from his surgery. One of the most striking ads included North Carolina resident Terrie Hall, 52, a smoker who suffered from throat cancer.

“People would come up to her in the grocery store or drug store in other towns and ask ‘if you are the woman on the ad – you inspired me to quit smoking – thank you so much,’” Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office and Smoking and Health, told NBC News.

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Related stories:

Report: U.S. Adult Smoking Rate Dips to 18 Percent

E-cigarettes Pushed as Way To Quit Smoking But Have Doubters

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