The CDC's shocking new anti-smoking campaign: Will it work?

The best way to scare smokers into quitting? Ask former smokers to demonstrate how ruthlessly tobacco destroyed their bodies

Former smoker Teri
(Image credit: YouTube)

The video: The federal Centers for Disease Control has launched a confrontational $54 million anti-smoking advertising campaign, which horrifically illustrates the dangers of smoking to shock people into giving up cigarettes. One ad from the 12-week campaign (called "Tips From Former Smokers") features a man shaving, navigating his razor around a gaping hole in his neck, the result of a tracheotomy (see the video below). Other ads show a 31-year-old man who lost his legs due to smoking-related vascular disease or a woman who peels up her shirt to reveal a foot-long scar on her back, her souvenir from an operation to remove a diseased lung. "This is incredibly important," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, tells the Associated Press. "It's not every day we release something that will save thousands of lives." But will this in-your-face approach really work?

The reaction: Polls suggest that "more than half of smokers want to quit," says Jaimie Dalessio at Everyday Health. "Maybe a peek into their future is just the kick in the butt they need." Studies have shown that shock ads are effective, "for the most part," says Matthew Creamer at Advertising Age, but the CDC faces an uphill battle. The budget for this three-month blitz "is equal to two days of what tobacco companies spend on marketing." The CDC is hoping these "hard hitting" spots can get 50,000 people to stop smoking, says Meredith Carroll at Babble. But, "as a parent, I hope the ads will prevent as many kids from starting smoking. The ads can be difficult to look at, but maybe that's just the message that our kids need."

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