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Press Briefing Transcript

CDC Telebriefing on Tips From Former Smokers ad campaign results

Monday, September 9, 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

TOM SKINNER: Thank you Calvin and thank you all for joining us today. We have an exciting telebriefing today where we're going to discussing results from the first federally funded national education ad campaign called Tips from Former Smokers. We're joined today by the director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden . We're also joined by Ms. Lisha Hancock from Elizabethtown, Kentucky who quit smoking after seeing the ad from the Tips campaign. And we're also joined by Ms. Terrie Hall who's a Tips From Former Smokers ad participant. Each of them will make some opening remarks and then we'll move to your questions, so I'll turn it over to Dr. Frieden.

TOM FRIEDEN: Thank you very much and thank you all for joining us. We really have good news to share today, we're release in the medical journal The Lancet new data that document the impact of the 2012 Tips From Former Smokers campaign. The Tips campaign is the first time the federal government has ever funded a national tobacco education ad campaign, it was designed to encourage smokers to quit by featuring the real stories of real Americans who had quit smoking and were living with smoking related disease and disability. And as Mr. Skinner said, I'd like to welcome to the call Terrie Hall who's one of the stars of the Tips campaign as well as Lisha Hancock from Kentucky who quit smoking after seeing Terrie's ad. They'll each comment briefly later.

The bottom line here is that the Tips campaign surpassed our expectations. In fact, at least came in at double our ambitious goal of the number of people who quit smoking. On the -- basically on the most minimal estimates, the most conservative estimates still more than 100,000 Americans quit smoking long-term because of Tips. In addition, millions of nonsmokers recommended or helped friends or family who smoked and millions more talked with friends or families about the dangers of smoking. In 2012, the three-month Tips campaign basically pulled back the curtain and showed the tragedies that doctors, nurses, and others see day in and day out. It reminded smokers and others that not only does smoking kills it also causes severe problems with daily life, with disability and disfigurement. It also can rob smokers of their independence. We know that it's not easy for most people to stop smoking. But in fact, most Americans who have smoked have already quit and most people who continue smoking today want to quit. Ad campaigns like this one help them to succeed. According to today's article which we are releasing in The Lancet, we estimate that more than 1 million Americans tried to quit and at a minimum with the most conservative estimates more than 100,000 quit long term because of the campaign. That's more than twice what our ambitious hope was of 50,000 sustained quits. In fact, about 8 out of 10 smokers and about 75 percent of nonsmokers recalled seeing at least one of the ads. So, by the most basic metric that many ad campaigns are evaluated on, people recognized it, they remembered it. In total, those who quit, added at least 300,000 years of life to the U.S. population and that's a tremendous success story. These are Americans who will live longer lives, healthier lives, with lower health care costs. And one of them volunteered to be with us here today: Lisha Hancock. I'm going to turn this over to Ms. Hancock for her comments.

LISHA HANCOCK: Hi, thank you. I started smoking when I was 21 years old and before I knew it, I was up to one, two packs a day. I tried to quit many times. But it wasn't until I saw Terrie's ad on the Tips For Former Smokers campaign that I was really able to quit for good. It broke my heart to see what Terrie was going through, but because of her, I will never smoke again. I owe so much to Terrie and the CDC for inspiring me and my family to live better. Thanks to the campaign I can look in my son's eyes and say mommy doesn't smoke anymore. I can look in my son's eyes and say that mommy finally doesn't smoke anymore. Now I feel like it's my duty to help Terrie and others quit smoking. Thank you.

TOM FRIEDEN: Thank you for sharing your story. We congratulate you and all other Americans who quit smoking. I know it's not easy. I urge anyone who's tried to quit and still wants to quit to keep trying because it may take several attempts before you succeed. And next, I want to welcome one of the most recognized faces of the Tips campaign, Terrie Hall. Now Terrie has been the star of the campaign with more than 2 million web visits than any other video that CDC has ever posted on the internet. We'll have copies of Terrie's comments for reporters afterwards. Terrie, it's so nice to have you join us again. Thank you so much for what you do and welcome to the call. Terrie, can you go ahead, please?

TERRIE HALL: When the Tips From Former Smokers campaign first started, I said if we can get just one person to quit smoking, or just one person to never start, that would be a success. I never imagined it would reach so many people and change so many lives. It has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Meeting people who have quit smoking because of the campaign is always a special feeling. Lisha Hancock's story makes me proud to be a part of this campaign. She is an example of what I tell everyone: the best way to quit is to keep trying. I would like to thank CDC for the opportunity to help people stop smoking. Again, thank you.

TOM FRIEDEN: Terrie, thank you so much for joining us and for your courage. You really are an inspiration to me and so many others. As a physician, when I think about smoking, I think about the patients that I have cared for. The man who had a leg amputated. The woman who had to gasp for any single breath that she took. The man who hoped to see his son graduate, but didn't live long enough to do that. That's the reality of smoking I see. Unfortunately, the reality of smoking that too many Americans see that which is paid for by the tobacco companies, which spend more in three days than we're able to spend in a whole year on this kind of campaign. However, because we have these realities, because most smokers want to quit, because we have really heroes like Terrie who have stepped forward, and people like Lisha Hancock who are willing to make sure they can get over the finish line and stop smoking, we're going to win that David and goliath battle. Every day, every day, there are more than 1,200 deaths from smoking in the U.S. More than 440,000 Americans each year, and for every single death, there are 20 people living with one or more smoking-related illnesses. The Tips campaign is an important part of what we're doing to try to reduce what is still the leading preventable cause of death in this country and in the world, sustaining that progress is going to require hard-hitting ads, effective policy interventions, effective regulation which the FDA is undertaking, and public health leadership at every level as well as community action all throughout this country to help Americans live longer, healthier, more productive lives with lower health care costs. So, now, I'll turn the call over to Tom Skinner to invite questions.

TOM SKINNER: Calvin, I believe we're ready for questions, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir.

OPERATOR: At this time, if you would like to ask a question, please press star 1 on your telephone keypad please record your name at the prompt so I may introduce your question. Again, that's star 1 to ask a question.

TOM FRIEDEN: And while we're waiting for people who may questions on the line, I'm also joined by Dr. Tim McAfee who was the lead author of this study. This was done by a web survey methodology to come up with a nationally represented group of adult smokers and nonsmokers. And then this was looked at both before and after for any methodological questions, Dr. McAfee will be available either on this call or afterward. I would emphasize that these are really minimal estimates. We think the actual impact may have been even larger than this. But even with that we're so encouraged by it, because it's more than double what we had hoped for, very ambitiously, from the program.

TOM SKINNER: Do we have any questions, Calvin?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir, we do have a question. It comes from Rebecca Adams with the Congressional Quarterly and your line is open.

REBECCA ADAMS: Thank you so much and thank you for doing this call. I appreciate it. I wanted to ask about the effective policy interventions and regulations by the FDA. We have seen a lot of activity already and I wondered if you could talk about the next steps in terms of policy implications and what you all expect going forward in terms of things that have not yet been  announced that might be steps that the agencies would be taking to try to curb this problem?

TOM FRIEDEN: Well first off, to emphasize, this campaign was funded by the Affordable Care Act Prevention Fund. So the Prevention Fund made this possible. If it were not for the Prevention Fund of the Affordable Care Act, at least 100,000 Americans, including Lisha Hancock and people like Lisha Hancock, would still be smoking and at risk for costly and painful, deadly diseases. So I think the first policy issue to think of is the importance of continuing to implement hard-hitting anti-tobacco campaigns year-round. Other areas, where we have seen a big impact is the continued spread of smoke-free laws which protect the public from tobacco and from secondhand smoke. That's critically important. As you know, the President has proposed in the ‘14 budget a 94-cent tax on tobacco. Taxing tobacco is the single most effective way to protect kids from smoking and to reduce adult smoking. That tax, if enacted, would protect lots of kids and would help more than 2 million Americans quit smoking. In terms of other regulations, that's really the purview of the FDA, you would have to refer to them, I will say that the FDA has new authorities with the 2009 Act on Tobacco and they're fully engaged in the regulatory process. They faced the challenge of knowing that the tobacco industry will undoubtedly sue anything that they propose, as they have done already, so they need to work, and they are working, to implement policies, regulations that will be both effective and will stand up in court.

TOM SKINNER: Next question, please?

OPERATOR: I'm showing no further questions at this time. Again, please press star 1 if you would like to ask a question.

TOM FRIEDEN: Okay, well, I want to thank you for joining us today. The article is available. It's embargoed until, I think, 1:00 p.m. today. We will have transcripts available through the media office. Bottom line, ads against tobacco work, because of the courage and really heroism of people like Terrie Hall and the stick-to-itiveness of Lisha Hancock, and people, more than 100,000 people like Lisha Hancock around the U.S., this campaign saved lives. And I'll also comment that because people who smoke do cost more in health care, it also saves money. So, thank you all for joining us—

OPERATOR: Excuse me. We did have a couple of questions come in.

TOM FRIEDEN: Great. We'll be happy to take those.

OPERATOR: Okay, first question comes from Tom Corwin with the Augusta Chronicle.

TOM CORWIN: Hi, thanks for taking the call. I wanted to see if Lisha Hancock could tell us a little bit more about how long she smoked and, what her son's name was, whether her son was also an influence in helping her to quit.

LISHA HANCOCK: Um, first, the beginning of the question was asked, you asked how long I'd smoked?

TOM CORWIN: Yes, ma'am.

LISHA HANCOCK: I started smoking when I was 21. Socially. It was over 17 years ago. And I tried to quit several different times. But seeing Terrie's ad made me do it for myself. A lot times I did it because I felt pressure from family or my environment, the place where I worked frowned upon smoking, but this time it was for myself. And yes, my son did have a lot to do with it. He was actually very interested in the ads himself. I'm not sure if it was because of her voice or because it was something different than what we normally see on TV. But his question for me was why does she sound like that? And then when I replied because she smoked, he asked if mommy would sound like that. So, um, the first ad that she, that she had impacted because I normally had a sore throat when I smoked. And seeing her throat in such a way made me realize that there's  more out there than lung cancer – there's obviously throat cancer, and that scared me. I could see myself in her shoes had I continued to smoke. The second ad hit home with myself and my son because she talked about lullabies and um reading stories which I do with my son, Ryley.

TOM CORWIN: And how old is your son?

LISHA HANCOCK: He is five, he just started kindergarten.

TOM FRIEDEN: Lisha Hancock, you were sharing how you quit. You want to discuss that a little bit more?

LISHA HANCOCK: Yes I actually Terrie's ad in the end of 2012, we actually have her recorded on our DVR, she's on one of the shows that my son watches on cable, so we saw her more than she actually aired. And when I first saw it, it stunned me because it was real, it was raw and she seemed very vulnerable, which was something that I could relate to, and brave at the same time, which there was a beauty, an obvious beauty in that. And at the end of her ad, she, you can see the regrets and the sadness in her eyes, which I can relate to, because that's how I felt every time I picked up another pack of cigarettes having quit once. And I decided then that I was going to have a plan instead of buying a method or picking a method and picking a date. I tried to change my lifestyle, I did a lot of research on how to eat healthier for myself and my family, and I picked out a workout routine that I knew that I would stick with because I'm not one to really like to exercise, and I chose a date, I bought lozenges and I stuck with it. I had my family's backing.

TOM FRIEDEN: How long have you been off cigarettes now?

LISHA HANCOCK: February, since February of this year.

TOM FRIEDEN: Great. And what we know is the longer you're off, the more likely you are to stay off. And generally once people hit the three-month period the risk of relapse is not zero, you have to keep it up. But it's much lower.

TOM SKINNER: Next question, Calvin.

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes from Alicia Ault with Internal Medicine News. Your line is open.

ALICIA ALUT: Thank you. Dr. Frieden, I was just wondering if you might comment on the news we've seen recently on e-cigarettes, and is that a concern that maybe people are switching from regular tobacco to these e-cigarettes.

TOM FRIEDEN: There's still a lot we don't know about e-cigarettes. There's more than 200 brands on the market. They have different constituents. We're still learning more about them. Last week we released data from the CDC that shows the use of e-cigarettes has been increasing very rapidly among youths. And one of the things that's of great concern to me is that of middle-school kids, who use e-cigarettes, 1 in 5 use only e-cigarettes and that suggest to me the possibility a lot of kids will start with e-cigarettes and progress to conventional cigarettes and may end up fighting a lifetime of addiction to nicotine. So, we still don't know in the long view whether e-cigarettes will be helpful for people, but we do know that if they result in kid's getting hooked on nicotine or people who would quit continuing to smoke both conventional and e-cigarettes, or people who quit going back and getting hooked again on nicotine and going back to conventional cigarettes or the glamorization of tobacco, of conventional tobacco and smoking. If any of those four things happen, increased smoking levels of conventional cigarettes in the population as a whole then they would have done a lot more harm than good. So, obviously, it's a very rapidly changing market and things like availability of e-cigarettes over the internet, for anyone who clicks and says they're over the age of 18, is I think just totally unacceptable and no company should be doing that. But unfortunately that is something that is happening now. So, this is an area where the FDA will be looking very closely, where many state governments are beginning to take action, but clearly it's a very quick-changing part of the tobacco landscape.

TOM SKINNER: Next question, Calvin.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Rebecca Adams with The Congressional Quarterly, your line is open.

REBECCA ADAMS: Hi, thank you. I don't want to belabor this, but just I wanted to follow up on that, when will data on adults be out again, you had the new data on the younger people last week and I think you had released the previous information on adults a while ago and I wanted to follow-up a little bit. In some cases, could e-cigarettes have a benefit for a sub-set of people, people who are trying to quit smoking?

TOM FRIEDEN: So, your question I think is about e-cigarette use among adults we've looked at that for 2011 and 2012 I believe -- 10 and 11—yes 10 and 11 and 12 data should be out later this year. But, in terms of your broader question, there's actually emerging information about the potential utility of e-cigarettes. The fact is, that there are FDA-approved medications which can double or triple your chances of succeeding if you want to quit. As Lisha Hancock used nicotine lozenges which doubles your risk of likelihood of succeeding. So for e-cigarettes, if the manufacturers believe that they'll help people quit, they need to do the clinical trials, they need to submit those to FDA and then they can get approved as a mechanism for quitting. Right now, there's some evidence they may suggest that they may help some people to quit when used for cessation, but what we're seeing in a very concerning development is E-cigarettes being marketed as a way to continue both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. So if that happens, again, they will do a lot more harm than good. There's still a lot we don't know including what's in them. Because there are more than 200 brands and they have different chemicals that they use.

REBECCA ADAMS: Thank you.

OPERATOR: I'm showing no further questions.

TOM FRIEDEN: Terrie Hall, do you want to say anything before we close?

TERRIE HALL: I’d like to say that I really truly appreciate the CDC –a fine group of people who are dedicated to saving lives and advocating against the sale of tobacco to children and teenagers. I want to remind everybody who can’t quit – keep trying. Don’t give up. Thank you.

TOM FRIEDEN: Thank you so much, Terrie. That's a great thought to end on. Anyone who smokes can quit, and what we're working toward with ad campaigns like this is supporting people so that we'll have less tobacco-associated illness, disability and death. So, again, thank you very much for joining us today. We'll have a transcript of this call later for those who are interested.

TOM SKINNER: Calvin, this concludes our calls. And once again if reporters have follow-up questions or need additional information they can call the CDC press office at 404-639-3286. We'll be sending out remarks from the speakers as well as posting a transcript very shortly. So, thank you all for joining us.

OPERATOR: That concludes today's conference. You may disconnect at this time. Thank you for your participation. 

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