CDC is starting new round of ‘Tips from former smokers’ ads, mainly targeting Kentucky and other heavy-smoking states

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is starting a new round of anti-smoking advertisements, aimed primarily at Kentucky and other heavy-smoking states: West Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi and Louisiana. West Virginia leads the nation in smoking, at 27.3 percent of adults; Kentucky ranks second at 26.5 percent.

The $70 million campaign, starting Jan. 25, will continue the “Tips from former smokers” theme. “The new round of ads will run on TV, print, radio, online, and outdoors for 20 weeks,” reports John Tozzi of Bloomberg News. “They include stories from an Air Force veteran in Texas who smoked heavily from a young age and had a heart attack in his 30s. Another new ad shows a woman who smoked while struggling with depression and anxiety. It shows pictures of her mouth after she lost teeth to gum disease.” In another, a Tennessee woman says using electronic cigarettes didn’t help her quit:

The ads would run-year round if Congress gave the agency more money, CDC Director Tom Frieden told Bloomberg. “The Tips From Former Smokers messages helped about 100,000 people quit in 2012, the first year of the campaign, according to research from CDC authors,” Tozzi writes. “At less than $400 spent per additional year of life gained, the agency
considers it one of the most cost-effective public-health interventions.”

However, some think the ads aren’t as effective as the could be, Tozzi reports: “John Ayers, a
computational epidemiologist at San Diego State University, compared Google search patterns during the first two years of the Tips campaign. He says the similar ads didn’t pack the same
punch the second time around, as measured by search queries for smoking
cessation terms.”

Nevertheless, “The CDC sees a clear link between when the ads run and calls to the
1-800-QUIT-NOW line that the messages promote to connect smokers with
cessation aids,” Tozzi writes. “Frieden is also aware that the message is dramatically
outgunned by the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies spent $9.2 billion on promotion and marketing in the U.S., mainly in the form of price
discounts, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent
tobacco report, which covered 2012.”

In 2014, the three largest cigarette manufacturers spent a combined $257 million on advertising, “an amount that’s
nearly doubled in two years, according to company securities filings,” Tozzi reports. “Tobacco companies are back
on TV with ads for e-cigarettes after being banned from advertising on television since the Nixon administration. . . . The Food and Drug Administration is considering new rules for e-cigarettes but hasn’t suggested advertising restrictions.”

Though he’s being far outspent, “Frieden believes the ads help shrink the territory tobacco occupies on
our cultural map,” Tozzi reports. Frieden told him, “We went as a society from where a polite thing would
be to say, ‘Would you like a cigarette?’ to where the polite thing was,
‘Would you mind if I smoke?’ to where you wouldn’t even ask that. That’s a huge shift in how we view smoking as a society.”

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