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May 21, 2002
Contact: CDC Office on Smoking and Health
(770) 4885493

Press Release

Esai Morales Joins National Campaign to Reduce Smoking Among Hispanics: "NYPD Blue" Star Will Use Personal Experience to Educate Community

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled new television public service announcements today starring and directed by Esai Morales of NYPD Blue and PBS' American Family. The PSAs are part of a CDC initiative aimed at decreasing tobacco use in the Hispanic community.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanics, therefore the tragic consequences of smoking are felt widely in the Hispanic community," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. "We are excited that Mr. Morales will be joining the effort to reduce the number of lives adversely affected by smoking-related illness and disability."

The PSAs are based on Morales' personal experience as the child of a smoker. They chronicle how as a young boy he would hide cigarettes from his mother hoping to convince her to quit smoking. The 30- and 60-second spots are presented in both English and Spanish, and will be made available to English and Spanish television stations this summer.

"I'm proud of these PSAs and I'm honored to help the Hispanic community on this issue," said Morales. "Smoking and smoking-related illness have a devastating effect on all of us, especially our children. I look forward to using my visibility to help more families like mine quit smoking." Morales will communicate his tobacco prevention and health messages through media interviews and personal appearances. In addition to the PSAs, Morales will appear on educational posters for the campaign.

Smoking is responsible for 87 percent of the lung cancer deaths in the United States. In 1997, 20.4 percent of Hispanic adults smoked cigarettes. In addition, CDC has found that babies and children who are exposed to tobacco smoke have more ear infections and asthma and higher death rates from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and that mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies. In addition, smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States, killing an estimated 440,000 Americans per year.

Esai Morales is a familiar face on both the large and small screens. He currently stars as Lieutenant Tony Rodriguez on ABC's NYPD Blue, and also has a recurring role on PBS' American Family and Showtime's Resurrection Boulevard. Morales began his film career in 1983 with the prison drama Bad Boys with Sean Penn and was propelled to fame in 1987 with La Bamba. He co-starred with Jimmy Smits and Edward James Olmos in Gregory Nava's My Family/Mi Familia in 1995. Morales grew up in New York City, where he spoke only Spanish until the age of 5. He has worked with a number of causes over the course of his career, including co-founding the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which works to improve the opportunity and image of Hispanics in front of as well as behind the camera.

In conjunction with these PSAs, CDC has posted information about tobacco prevention for the Hispanic community in English and Spanish on their Web site, www.cdc.gov/tobacco.

For further information about viewing or airing the PSA or obtaining posters, please contact the Media Campaign Resource Center (MCRC) at MCRC@cdc.gov or (770) 488-5705, ext. 2. For information on tobacco prevention in English or Spanish, please call (800) CDC-1311.

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.


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