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Media Statement

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2012
Contact :CDC Division of News and Electronic Media
(404) 639-3286

Tips from Former Smokers Share Harsh Realities

CDC recently launched a hard hitting ad campaign that shows the graphic realities of smoking.   In these ads, former smokers give current smokers frank tips about how they cope with the consequences of their tobacco use. Brandon and Marie explain how to get by after losing body parts to amputation. Terri explains how to hide the disfigurements of smoking with make-up and a scarf tied around her tracheotomy. Suzy gives tips on how to live day-to-day paralyzed by a stroke.

The ads are necessary and important. Here’s why:

These ads show what I and other doctors see when we take care of smokers –heart attacks, strokes, amputations, cancer, asthma and more.  Big Tobacco spends $10 billion every year – more than $1 million an hour– to portray smoking as vibrant and healthy. That’s not reality.

People understand that smoking kills. But that’s only part of the story. Smoking also disfigures, disables, and robs smokers of their independence.

Research demonstrates that ads that show the graphic realities of smoking are most effective.

Every year, more than 440,000 Americans are killed by tobacco – 1,200 every day.  And each day, 1,000 Americans under the age of 18 begin smoking.

Big Tobacco would have us believe that smoking is an “adult choice”.  But the Surgeon General’s most recent report on smoking underscores the fact that almost 90 percent of smokers start as kids and continue to smoke because they are addicted to nicotine – an addiction that research suggests is as hard to quit as heroin or cocaine. More than two thirds of smokers want to quit, and most try to quit every year. Addiction to tobacco costs the United States millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. A smoker costs about $2,000 more in medical care than a non-smoker, every year. 

Big Tobacco will spend more on marketing in two days than CDC will spend on these ads all year. But we project that the hard realities of smoking that these courageous ex-smokers and their families share will help as many as 50,000 smokers quit.  The campaign will pay for itself in reduced health care costs in just a few years.  And the media campaign will help reduce the suffering, illness, and death that would otherwise be the realities for smokers and their families.

The ads show these Americans’ real stories about how smoking has permanently changed their lives and the lives of their families.  If you smoke, quit. If someone you love smokes, help them quit.  And while most smokers quit on their own, help from quitlines, counseling, and medication more than doubles the likelihood of success. 

If you smoke, quit now. And if you want help, call the national toll-free quitline – 1-800-QUIT-NOW- or visit

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


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