WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The government is making a new attempt to spike the long flat-lining smoking rate across the United States with a graphic ad campaign that has the kick in the teeth of a horror flick.
Through a new campaign of print, radio, television and billboard displays, advertisements will show people whose smoking resulted in heart surgery, a tracheotomy, lost limbs or paralysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent $54 million to launch its first national advertising effort that is aimed to be the largest, most shock-provoking anti-smoking push yet.
The Associated Press reports the agency is hoping the spots that are to begin Monday, will persuade as many as 50,000 Americans to stop smoking.
“This is incredibly important. It’s not every day we release something that will save thousands of lives,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told the AP.
The U.S. smoking rate had been on the decline for decades but has halted at about 20% in more recent years; something the CDC thinks can be jolted with hard-hitting images.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, “There is an urgent need for this media campaign.”
One print ad shows a 50-year-old shaving, razor moving down his neck to reveal a gaping tracheotomy hole. Shawn Wright out of the state of Washington was diagnosed with head and neck cancer just four years ago, found by an advertising firm along with nearly a dozen others who developed cancer or other health issues after smoking.
Health agencies have come around slowly on using anti-smoking imagery of a more graphic nature, but are starting to embrace the idea. The FDA approved nine images in 2011 that will be displayed on cigarette packages, which include a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, and a diseased mouth filled with cancerous lesions.
Last month however, a federal judge blocked the requirement of tobacco companies putting these images on their packages, deeming it unconstitutional.
The stark images in these latest advertisements are aimed at being so appalling that they stick in the minds of smokers and potential smokers, resonating each time they have the urge to buy a pack of cigarettes, said Glenn Leshner, a University of Missouri researcher who has studied the effectiveness of anti-smoking ads.
Leshner thinks the advertising spots need to be a combination of shocking the viewers along with encouraging people to believe that quitting is possible. Some ads are so disturbing that people reacted by turning away from the message rather than paying further attention to it.
CDC officials said the campaign will offer advice on how to kick the habit and includes information on a national quit hotline.