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CDC Leads Fight Against Tobacco with New Round of Anti-Smoking Ads – Cost-Effective Campaign Helps Smokers Quit, Saves Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The CDC is providing the sustained commitment needed to win the fight against tobacco – the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States – by launching a new round of its hard-hitting Tips from Former Smokers (Tips) advertising campaign. Now in its fifth year, the Tips campaign has proven highly cost-effective at helping smokers quit and saving lives. The CDC announced today that the new ads will start on January 25 and run for 20 weeks on television, radio, billboards, online and in magazines and newspapers.

There is a clear need to continue and even expand mass media campaigns like Tips.

First, these campaigns are needed to counter the $9.6 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – the tobacco industry spends to market its deadly and addictive products. Tobacco companies never let up in trying to entice kids and keep their customers addicted. Efforts to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit must be equally sustained and aggressive.

Second, despite our nation’s enormous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs us 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.

Mass media campaigns are proven effective at reducing tobacco use and its terrible toll in health, lives and health care dollars. In fact, both youth and adult smoking rates have fallen faster and to record lows in recent years at the same time the U.S. has seen unprecedented anti-smoking media campaigns, including not only the CDC’s Tips campaign, but also the FDA’s youth-oriented campaigns and Truth Initiative’s reinvigorated truth® campaign. Among its recommendations for ending the tobacco epidemic, the most recent Surgeon General’s report on tobacco called for “counteracting industry marketing by sustaining high-impact national media campaigns … at a high-frequency level and exposure for 12 months a year for a decade or more.”

The Tips campaign has been very effective despite being on the air for only part of the year and spending just a fraction of the tobacco industry’s marketing budget. In its first year, the campaign helped 100,000 smokers to quit and prevented at least 17,000 premature deaths, according to a December 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The campaign is considered a public health “best buy” because it spent only $393 per year of life saved, far below the $50,000 that is an accepted benchmark for cost-effective public health programs.

The CDC’s ads tell the harsh truth about how devastating and unglamorous smoking truly is. These 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. Importantly, the new ads feature populations with high rates of smoking, including military members and veterans and people with mental illness.

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.