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Frequently Asked Questions About the Tips Campaign

Why is this campaign running when people are well aware of the dangers of smoking?

The science shows that these types of hard-hitting ads help people quit, saving lives and decreasing the huge economic burden caused by tobacco use.

Despite the known dangers of smoking, it remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. More than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease, and every day more than 3,800 youth younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. Nearly 70% of adult smokers say they want to quit, and nearly half make a serious quit attempt each year.

Besides the human cost, smoking takes a severe toll on our nation's economy—costing more than $300 billion a year (nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity).

 

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Is this a good use of government funds?

The Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign shares the truth about smoking through the lives of real people living with smoking-related illnesses. Despite the known dangers of smoking, it remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. Besides the human cost, smoking takes a severe toll on our nation’s economy—costing more than $300 billion a year (nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity). Of the $170 billion for direct medical care to treat people suffering from smoking-related illnesses, more than 60% is paid for by public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Research shows that educational efforts like this provide an excellent return on investment because they save lives and lower health care costs. The Tips campaigns serve as an important counter to the more than $1 million that the tobacco industry spends each hour—more than $26 million a day—on cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertising and promotion. The Tips campaign that ran in 2012 cost less than what the tobacco industry spends in 3 days to market and promote its products.

Smokers who want to quit have responded dramatically to the Tips campaigns. A study of the 2012 campaign published in the September 9, 2013, issue of medical journal The Lancet reported that:

 

  • An estimated 1.64 million Americans tried to quit smoking because of the campaign.
  • About 100,000 smokers are expected to stay quit for good.
  • An estimated 6 million nonsmokers talked with friends and family about the dangers of smoking, and an estimated 4.7 million additional nonsmokers recommended cessation services to their friends and family.

The December 2014 online issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the 2012 Tips campaign. It showed that, based on the number of people estimated to have quit smoking for good (about 100,000), the campaign will also prevent at least 17,000 premature deaths and help gain about 179,000 years of healthy life. With total campaign costs of about $48 million, Tips spent approximately:

  • $480 per smoker who quit
  • $2,819 per premature death prevented
  • $393 per year of life saved
  • $268 per year of healthy life gained

At those amounts, the Tips campaign is a “best buy” in public health, where the benchmark for a cost-effective health program is $50,000 per year of life saved.

CDC is committed to helping smokers quit and preventing young people from starting.   

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Everyone knows smoking is very bad for your health. What new information are these ads providing?

The personal stories shared in this series of ads are compelling and communicate in a very human way that smoking causes immediate damage to your body and that this damage can happen at a young age and be severe. Hard-hitting media campaigns have been proven to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and to motivate smokers to quit. Nearly 70% of adult smokers say they want to quit, and nearly half make a serious quit attempt each year. The ads also promote resources like 1-800-QUIT-NOW and CDC.gov/tips to further help smokers quit. Spanish-language ads promote resources like 1-855-DÉJELO YA and CDC.gov/consejos.

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What evidence proves that graphic, hard-hitting campaigns are effective?

Hard-hitting media campaigns have been proven to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and to motivate smokers to quit. The Institute of Medicine, National Cancer Institute, and U.S. Surgeon General have all recommended a national media campaign as part of a comprehensive approach for ending the smoking epidemic. Many studies have shown that ads carrying strong negative messages about health consequences are more effective than many other forms of advertising, such as humorous or emotionally neutral advertisements. Given the large evidence base supporting this approach, CDC uses graphic and emotional advertisements. The Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign not only arouses emotions such as fear about the negative consequences of smoking but also provides a call to action (e.g., call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-855-DÉJELO YA for Spanish speakers) and encouraging statements such as “You can quit” in all of its ads. CDC tested these ads first to make sure they would be effective. Smokers said these kinds of messages can help them quit successfully.

A study of the 2012 Tips campaign published in the September 9, 2013, issue of the medical journal The Lancet reported that:

 

  • An estimated 1.64 million Americans tried to quit smoking because of the campaign.
  • About 100,000 smokers are expected to stay quit for good.
  • An estimated 6 million nonsmokers talked with friends and family about the dangers of smoking, and an estimated 4.7 million additional nonsmokers recommended cessation services to their friends and family.

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Is CDC taking steps to make sure children do not see graphic images in the ads?

We understand the strong nature of these messages and have done all that is possible within the conventions of broadcast advertising to ensure the ads reach their primary target audience, which is adults. The ads may reach some children by virtue of the fact that they watch TV, read magazines, and view ads on the Internet. However, no ads will be run on children’s programming (for example, Disney and Nickelodeon).

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Are the people featured in this campaign real or actors?

These are not actors; they are real people telling their real stories. They come from a variety of states and backgrounds. They wanted to tell their stories to help prevent other people from suffering the same consequences.

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Is CDC concerned that ads showing people with serious health problems and disabilities might stigmatize people who have these conditions but never smoked?

The Tips From Former Smokers ads feature real people who have experienced health consequences as a result of smoking and breathing secondhand smoke. These ads are not intended to suggest that all people who suffer from these problems smoke. They are intended to show the damage smoking can cause. The former smokers featured in the ads are sharing their own stories in the hopes that their experiences can help others.

It is CDC’s hope that all Americans will understand the importance of using strategies found to be most effective to reduce smoking and save lives. Research shows that the most effective smoking-cessation ads show the health consequences and emotional impact of long-term tobacco use, encourage smokers to quit, and provide information on how to quit.

 

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Why are there ads about smoking and babies?

Not all women who deliver a baby prematurely do so as a result of smoking, and not all mothers who smoke during pregnancy fail to carry to term. However, it’s important for women to know that smoking increases the risk for many problems with pregnancy and babies, including preterm birth, problems with the placenta that result in bleeding, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and that they can reduce these risks by quitting smoking completely. State tobacco quitlines, which can be reached by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, have special services for pregnant smokers. SmokefreeWomen.gov also provides information and resources just for women, including pregnant women.

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Why is heart disease included in the Tips campaign when many people with heart disease have never smoked?

The Tips From Former Smokers ads featuring people with heart disease are not intended to suggest that all heart-related medical conditions result from smoking but instead to show the damage smoking can cause. The former smokers featured in the ads are sharing their own stories in the hopes that their experiences can help others.

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What about people who smoke for years and do not die from a smoking-related disease?

While it is true that some smokers do not die from smoking-related diseases, for every smoking-related death, at least 30 Americans live with a smoking-related illness. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans every year. Half of all long-time smokers die prematurely because of their tobacco use. The latest research shows that the life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years less than that of nonsmokers. The best thing smokers can do to protect their health and that of their families is to quit smoking.

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How can I find out about smokefree policies in my area?

You can find information about your state’s tobacco laws by visiting the State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System . Your state’s Tobacco Control Highlights Report provides an overview of state tobacco laws plus other helpful information about tobacco use in your state.

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Are there resources for people who want to quit smoking?

There are a number of free resources to help smokers quit and stay smokefree. You can contact your state tobacco quitline by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The quitline coach can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support. Online resources for quitting smoking are available on this site. Spanish speakers can call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) or access CDC.gov/consejos.

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How can I get materials based on the Tips campaign?
Campaign resources available on this Web site for smokers and nonsmokers include:

Other campaign materials are available for free for a limited time at CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers Download Center. These materials can be used free of charge for educational or information purposes or as part of community or organization programs to decrease smoking and encourage quitting. They include:

  • Low-resolution TV, print, radio, online, and out-of-home ads for use by educators, health care providers, and community organizations
  • Continuous-loop videos for doctors’ offices, clinics, etc.
  • Public service announcements (PSAs) about quitting smoking and the harmful effects of secondhand smoke (available in English and Spanish)

Please contact CDC’s Media Campaign Resource Center at mcrc@cdc.gov if you are interested in any of the following:

  • Broadcast-quality ads
  • Free social media resources
  • Use of PSAs for media
  • Use of materials in textbooks
  • Use of materials as part of a media buy or placement

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Why does this campaign address secondhand smoke?

Smoking is the single leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. But the harmful effects of smoking are not limited to the smoker. Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Although the primary target audience for the Tips From Former Smokers campaign is smokers, raising awareness about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers is also a campaign goal. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to health.

Several ads focus on people who have had lung damage or severe asthma attacks that were triggered by secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke exposure can trigger heart attacks and cause heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. Secondhand smoke also causes sickness and death in children, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Children who breathe secondhand smoke are also more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and more severe asthma attacks.

Only 100% smokefree indoor environments fully protect nonsmokers from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke. Separate “no smoking” sections DO NOT protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke—neither does ventilation, filtering the air, or opening a window.

More information about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure is available at CDC’s Secondhand Smoke page.

There are a number of free resources to help smokers quit and stay smokefree. You can contact your state tobacco quitline by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The quitline coach can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support. Online resources for quitting smoking are available on this site. Spanish speakers can call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) or access CDC.gov/consejos.

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