Federal Government To Launch $54M National Antismoking Campaign
On Thursday, CDC will launch a national antismoking campaign that will stress the immediate and permanent negative health effects of smoking, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/15).
CDC officials say that smoking rates have hovered around 20% for the past five years (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 3/15).
About the Campaign
The $54 million, 12-week campaign, called "Tips From Former Smokers," will include paid print, radio and TV advertisements and public service announcements (Reuters, 3/15).
The ads will feature personal testimony and photographs of people who have smoking-related diseases, including asthma, heart attacks, strokes, and lung, head and neck cancers. The campaign also will provide practical advice on how to quit smoking (Brown, Washington Post, 3/14).
According to CDC Director Thomas Frieden, evidence has shown that graphic, hard-hitting ads are an effective way to cut tobacco use (Wall Street Journal, 3/15). Frieden said he estimates that the campaign will help 50,000 people quit, adding, "[T]hat will translate not only into thousands who will not die from smoking but it will pay for itself in a few years in reduced health costs" (Harris, New York Times, 3/15).
Campaign Marks First Paid National Effort
The campaign is the first paid national media effort by the federal government, which usually delegates antismoking efforts to states and local entities. However, states' tobacco prevention budgets have been cut sharply in recent years, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 3/15).
Frieden notes that the campaign's budget is modest compared with the more than $10 billion spent annually by the tobacco industry on marketing and promotion (Reuters, 3/15).
The new ads also mark the latest move in a larger government effort to reduce tobacco consumption. The effort includes FDA regulation of manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products, as well as more funding for tobacco cessation programs.
FDA also has proposed large graphic warning labels on cigarette packages (Wall Street Journal, 3/15). However, a U.S. district judge in February ruled that requiring tobacco companies to use the labels violated their right to free speech (California Healthline, 3/2).
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco spokesperson David Howard said the company supports providing tobacco consumers with "accurate information about the risks associated with tobacco use." Though Howard did not directly comment on the campaign, he said that he doubted that tobacco companies would object to the campaign -- like they have to FDA's efforts to require graphic ads -- because it would not involve "taking our packaging to deliver antitobacco information."
American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin praised the effort, noting that the recent decline in cancer mortality rates is in large part because of the drop in the percentage of U.S. residents who smoke. "If this ad campaign helps people quit and prevents some from starting, it's the right thing to do," he said (New York Times, 3/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.