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CDC Shows Sustained Commitment to Fighting Tobacco with New Anti-Smoking Ads – Cost-Effective Campaign Helps Smokers Quit

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 26, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – It is welcome news for the nation’s fight against tobacco use – the number one cause of preventable death – that the CDC today launched a new round of ads in its hard-hitting Tips from Former Smokers (Tips) campaign. Now entering its fourth year, the Tips campaign has proven to be a powerful, cost-effective way to help smokers quit.

The new campaign recognizes that winning the fight against tobacco requires a sustained commitment. The tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion a year – $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, and they never let up in trying to entice kids and keep the customers they already have. Efforts to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit must be equally sustained and aggressive.

The CDC’s ads tell the harsh truth about how devastating and unglamorous smoking truly is. The new ads remind viewers that smoking causes not only well-known conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease, but in fact damages nearly every organ in the human body. The smoking-related diseases highlighted in the new ads include macular degeneration, which causes vision loss, and colon cancer. Importantly, one of the ads tells smokers that the only way to protect their health is to quit smoking completely – and that dual use of cigarettes and electronic cigarettes will not do so.

The Tips campaign has been highly effective despite being on the air for only about 12 weeks a year and spending just a fraction of what the tobacco industry spends on marketing. In its first year, the campaign helped 100,000 smokers to quit and saved about 17,000 people from a premature death, according to a December 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The campaign spent only $480 per smoker who quit and $393 per year of life saved. These costs are far below the benchmark of $50,000 per year of life saved that is a commonly accepted threshold for measuring cost-effectiveness of public health interventions, study authors wrote.

The effectiveness of such media campaigns was affirmed by the Surgeon General’s report on tobacco and health released last year. Among its key recommendations for accelerating progress against tobacco, the report called for “counteracting industry marketing by sustaining high-impact national media campaigns like the CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign and the FDA’s youth prevention campaigns at a high-frequency level and exposure for 12 months a year for a decade or more.” The Tips campaign, along with the FDA’s The Real Cost campaign and Legacy’s renewed truth® campaign, are important steps toward meeting this recommendation.

There is an urgent need to continue these campaigns as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco use. While the United States has cut smoking rates by more than half among both youth and adults, tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. More than 60 percent of these costs are paid by taxpayers through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

We urge Congress to ensure that campaigns like Tips from Former Smokers are continued and expanded, because they save lives AND money. The states must also do their part by increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, including media campaigns.

Evidence that Media Campaigns Work

Substantial scientific evidence shows that mass media campaigns reduce the number of children who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit, saving lives and health care dollars. Public health authorities including the Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have all examined the evidence and concluded that these campaigns work.

Research indicates the most effective anti-smoking media campaigns evoke strong emotions and realistically depict the devastating health consequences of smoking, just as the CDC ads do.

For more information, see our fact sheet: Public Education Campaigns Reduce Tobacco Use. More information on the Tips from Former Smokers campaign can be found at