CDC Previews Second Round Of Anti-Smoking Ads

In a week when the Food and Drug Administration yielded to the tobacco industry’s legal challenge to its gruesome anti-smoking warnings on cigarette packs, the Centers for Disease Control yesterday unveiled a new series of heart-wrenching advertisements that show former smokers struggling with the effects of their –- and their loved one’s -- addictions.

“The commercials last year marked the first time that the federal government directly attacked the tobacco industry in paid, national advertisements,” Anahad O’Connor reports on the New York Times’ “Well” blog, “… but federal health officials say it was so successful that they are launching a second round” beginning on Monday.



“The new campaign tilts more toward the impact smokers have on others,” the AP’s Mike Stobbe reports. “One ad features a Kentucky high school student who suffers asthma attacks from being around cigarette smoke. Another has a Louisiana woman who was 16 when her mother died from smoking-related causes.”

There also a spot featuring the stump of a 40-year-old who lost his leg to smoking; another shows a 55-year-old man who had open-heart surgery. And then there’s Terrie Hall, the haunting North Carolinian whose first anti-smoking spot aired in her home state in 2006.

“She's back. The woman with the deep, throaty rasp will again appear in graphic ads to warn about the reason she lost her real voice: smoking,” writes Wendy Koch in USA Today, referring to Hall, now 52 years old. Hall “attracted so much public attention” in last year’s inaugural campaign that a new print ad advises smokers to “record your voice for loved ones while you still can.” In her new TV spot, Hall says: "My grandson has never heard my real voice. I don't even remember what my own voice sounds like."

Last year’s campaign led to an increase of 200,000 calls to smokers’ quit lines (such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW or, reports the AP’s Stobbe. “The CDC believes that likely prompted tens of thousands of smokers to quit based on calculations that a certain percentage of callers do actually stop,” he writes.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced Wednesday it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court “to review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked new graphic warnings on cigarette packages,” CNN’s Steve Almasy reported

Writing on HuffPost’s “Healthy Living” blog the day before, Dr. Howard K. Koh, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, outlined the Obama administration’s “steadfast commitment to end the tobacco epidemic” and maintained that “the D.C. Circuit's ruling against the warning labels won't deter the FDA from seeking an effective and sound way to implement the law.”

Koh pointed out that the FDA “will undertake research to support new rule-making on graphic warning labels consistent with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.”The now-defunct warnings are still posted on the FDA's website, however, including one that shows smoke coming out of a hole in a man’s throat.Perhaps that powerful image seems familiar to you, even it if didn’t make its way to a pack of Marlboros. 

Debi Austin, a 62-year-old Californian who was featured in a widely played 1996 commercial that showed her inhaling a cigarette though a hole where her larynx had been, died last month after battling cancer for 20 years, Lisa Flam reported on She had her first cigarette at age 13, she tells us in the spot.

“When I found out how bad it was, I tried to quit. But I couldn’t. They say nicotine isn’t addictive. How could they say that?” she asks plaintively.

“Though they can be hard to watch, commercials like Austin’s are effective in spreading the anti-smoking message,” Andrew Strasser, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the effectiveness of anti-smoking PSAs, tells Flam.

“We think it's important the public continues to be informed about the health risks of smoking,” David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria Group, told the WSJ in response to the new advertising yesterday. 

“Cigarette companies in the U.S. aren't allowed to advertise on TV or radio, but they can still buy newspaper and magazine advertisements in addition to in-store displays,” Betsy McKay and and Mike Esterl point out. “The industry spent $8 billion on marketing in 2010, according to the Federal Trade Commission, most of it in price discounts paid to cigarette retailers or wholesalers.”

In contrast, the new CDC campaign has about $48 million to spend for its 16-week flight on TV. All of the ads, including two TV PSAs, will be available from the Plowshare Group’s download media center at no cost. There is no expiration date on the print, out-of-home and digital efforts; several of the TV ads expire in July.

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