Debilitated smokers tell their stories in graphic US antismoking campaign

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 03 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2103
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

A new hard hitting antismoking campaign has been launched in the United States that includes former smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, amputations, and other smoking related diseases talking about how smoking changed their lives.

The campaign, Tips from Former Smokers (Tips),1 sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), builds on a 2011 campaign that also used graphic images and disturbing video to dramatize the health effects of smoking, said CDC director Dr Thomas Frieden.

“This year’s campaign continues in that vein of showing the realities of smoking,” said Frieden. “Basically it takes what we as doctors see day-in and day-out and draws back the curtain from the examining room and shows the reality that smokers live with.”

During the 2011 campaign, the volume of calls to a national smoking cessation hotline rose to more than 365 000 in the 12 weeks that the advertisements ran—more than double those made in the same weeks the year before—and visits to the government’s antismoking website,, rose to 510 571, a more than fivefold increase.2

This year’s campaign involves traditional media—television, radio, print, and billboard advertisements—as well as web and digital media, including Facebook and Pinterest pages, and Twitter and YouTube channels.

The campaign’s videos feature former smokers speaking directly to the viewer about losing a limb, struggling for breath with emphysema, having to undergo quadruple coronary bypass surgery, and other consequences of their decision to smoke. The initiative also features people who have had asthma attacks and other problems resulting from exposure to secondhand smoke.

The campaign is designed to target primarily smokers aged 18 to 54 years, with a secondary audience of parents, other family members, and adolescents. It will try to reach groups not targeted in the first Tips campaign, including American Indian and Alaska Native populations and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups.

The $43m (£28m; €34m) media campaign will run for 16 weeks, and the CDC expects the free public service announcements to continue throughout the year.

“Big Tobacco continues to spend $1m an hour every day of the year to portray smoking as vibrant and healthy,” said Frieden. “CDC’s education campaign shows the reality: smokers face illness, disability, disfigurement, and death as a result of their tobacco use.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2103


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