Local reaction is mixed over 'powerful' CDC ads


Calls to a national stop-smoking line doubled and traffic to the government's anti-smoking web site tripled after a hard-hitting TV advertising campaign seems to have convinced many Americans to quit the deadly habit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says just two weeks after the ads started running, the Tips from Former Smokers campaign caused the quit line's numbers to spike from  14,000 per week to more than 34,000.

The graphic ads depict real people living with the after-effects of tobacco-related diseases.

"Although they may be tough to watch, the ads show people living with real, painful consequences from smoking," Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said.

Shane, whose last name was not given, is featured in one of the CDC's most prominent ads. As one of three smokers in the video, he gives tips on getting around with a surgical hole in your neck, necessary to treat the throat cancer he got from smoking.

"Crouch, don't bend over," he advises with an electronic device that allows him to speak with a stoma. "You don't want to lose the food in your stomach."

The ad is one of at least seven running on TV stations across the country. Others feature people who have had amputations after contracting a rare blood vessel disease, strokes and heart attacks from tobacco use.

"For every one person who dies from tobacco, 20 are disabled or disfigured or have a disease that is unpleasant, painful, expensive," Frieden said.

The campaign was launched March 19 and will run for at least 12 weeks. Ads appear on a number of platforms, including TV, billboards, magazines and newspapers.

According to research from the CDC, approximately 45.3 million adults smoke in the U.S. A recent report from the Surgeon General's Office found nearly 1.5 million people under 18 start smoking each year.

Locally FOX19 showed the ads to both non-smokers and smokers to find out if they think it's working.

"I think even though they're kind of harsh that's what it takes to make people have the reality of how bad something like that is for you," said Stephen Yates, a smoker for 25 years.

"I never thought about that having a hole in my throat," said Ron Herndon, a smoker for 35 years.

"It gives you a real perspective of what cigarettes, tobacco use can do to you for real. Instead of a bunch of numbers it actually shows people. That's very effective," said Herndon.

Non-smokers agree, the real life stories help explain there are consequences to smoking.

"I think it really hits home to what smoking really does to a person and it really gives some of that perspective that maybe someone whose experimented with it maybe will stop," said Val McQuiston.

"Many young smokers believe that smoking will ‘just' kill them a few years earlier than they would normally die, and they don't care if they die at 70 instead of 80," Dr. Tim McAffee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said. "But the reality is that smoking is the No. 1  cause of early death in middle age, and one of the biggest causes of early disability."

All of the 13 former smokers featured in the ads started smoking in their teens.

"The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens," said Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. "We now know smoking causes immediate physical damage, some of which is permanent."

Copyright 2012 WXIXRaycom News Network contributed to this story. All rights reserved.