Grotesque Anti-Smoking Ads Shown to Work
June 21, 2011 --
The U.S. government on Tuesday unveiled a new set of cigarette warnings with graphic images of a lifeless body, a scarred mouth and a blackened lung in order to highlight the health risks of smoking. "Beginning September 2012, FDA will require larger, more prominent cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States," the Food and Drug Administration said on its website.
The warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are "a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking," the agency added. One of the images, shown here, shows an apparently dead man with his chest sewn up. The caption reads: "Warning: Smoking can kill you."
According to the FDA, smoking kills 1,200 people a day in the United States alone. Another picture shows a close-up on a mouth filled with scattered, brown teeth and a lip with an open sore, warning: "Cigarettes cause cancer."
Smoking causes 90 percent of all lung cancer in men and 80 percent in women, and has been linked to several other cancers, according to the FDA.
The new warnings also seek to warn pregnant women and new parents of the dangers of smoking, with a drawn image showing a premature baby in a hospital incubator and a picture showing a real baby staring at a plume of smoke. The warnings will occupy the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of cigarette packs and the top 20 percent of cigarette advertisements.
Telling the stories of real smokers — however grotesque and scary — via a national anti-smoking ad campaign has helped between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans quit the habit, the Centers for the Prevention of Disease Control said in a report today.
The numbers far exceeded the “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign’s goals: More than 200,000 quit after the three-month campaign, and researchers expect at least half of those will remain smoke-free.
The percentage of people who tried to quit rose by 12 percent, representing 1.6 million attempts, surveys showed. The toll-free number (1-800-QUIT-NOW) displayed during the ads got 132 percent more calls.
Based on the input of smokers, the ads focused on smokers living with the ill effects of the habit. Nothing was off-limits: the ads focused on lung removal, limb amputations, heart attacks, paralysis and strokes.
“I wish we could make upbeat, happy ads,” but that’s not what smokers said would motivate them to quit, Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, told USA Today.
Smoking costs the U.S. health care system $96 billion a year, according to the CDC. The ad campaign cost $54 million. That works out to less than $200 per year of life saved, McAffee said.