CDC's New Anti-Smoking Ads Target E–Cigarettes


Cigarette stocks Altria Group (NYSE:MO), Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI), Lorillard (NYSE:LO) and Philip Morris (NYSE:PM) will face new pressure from the government’s vivid anti-smoking campaign set to debut March 30. Even the industry’s push to sell “health-conscious” e-cigarettes, which lets users “vape” nicotine, is now under fire.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new $50 million anti-smoking campaign, “Tips From Former Smokers,” will run for 20 weeks on TV, radio, billboards, online and in theaters, magazines and newspapers. Consumers will see graphic ads showcasing former smokers who suffer from smoking-related illnesses, including blindness and colorectal cancer. The CDC launched its anti-smoking campaign in 2012, which it says “has helped prompt millions of smokers to try to quit.”

And now, the CDC says in a statement that “about three in four adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes. If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks. Smokers must quit smoking completely to fully protect their health -- even a few cigarettes a day are dangerous.”

To that end, the CDC says its new ads include Kristy, 35, a former e-cigarette user who “quit smoking cigarettes but ended up using both products instead of quitting. Kristy then suffered a collapsed lung, and was diagnosed with early COPD (lung disease) before she quit smoking completely.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed new rules for e-cigarettes, including reviewing new e-cig products before they are sold and outlawing sales of the e-cig devices to minors. Final rules are expected in June.

As for the overall campaign, CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement: “These former smokers are helping save tens of thousands of lives by sharing their powerful stories of how smoking has affected them. These new real-life ads will help smokers quit, adding years to their lives and life to their years.”

The public reaction has been swift, the CDC says. Last year, its Tips ads triggered 80% more people calling its national hot line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, for free help. The CDC says since 2012, “Tips ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls to the toll-free” hotline number.

The CDC says its new ads will feature:

Marlene, 68, who started smoking in high school and began losing her vision to macular degeneration at age 56. Besides quitting smoking, the best chance for slowing her vision loss is a drug that must be injected through a needle into her eyes. To date, she has had more than 100 shots in each eye.

Mark, 47, an Air Force veteran who used cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. He quit in 2009 when he developed rectal cancer at age 42.

Julia, 58, who smoked for more than 20 years before developing colon cancer at age 49, followed by surgery and months of chemotherapy. She needed an ostomy bag taped to a hole in her abdomen to collect waste.

Tiffany, 35, whose mother died from lung cancer when Tiffany was 16. She quit smoking when her own daughter turned 16 so she could be around for important milestones in her daughter’s life. Tiffany’s ad will run as a public service announcement.

While the cigarette industry spends more than $8.3 billion annually to market cigarettes, the CDC says cigarette smoking “kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.” It adds: “For every American who dies from a smoking-related disease, about 30 more suffer at least one serious illness from smoking.”

Plus, “it costs more than $300 billion a year—nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.”