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Frequently Asked Questions About the TipsTM 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 smoking.

Despite the known dangers of tobacco 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 1 million youth younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. Nearly 70% of adult cigarette smokers say they want to quit, and nearly half make a serious quit attempt each year.

Why are there no new ads for 2017?

CDC has a large collection of ads that have been developed since the campaign first launched in 2012 and these ads continue to perform well. When the Tips campaign aired in 2016—its 5th year—the average weekly call volume to 1-800-QUIT-NOW was 92% higher than the average call volume during the preceding two weeks, representing almost a doubling of call volume. In 2017, the campaign will continue to use existing ads while we conduct research to ensure that future campaign efforts continue to be effective.

Is this a good use of government funds?

The Tips From Former SmokersTM (TipsTM) campaign shares the truth about tobacco smoking through the lives of real people living with smoking-related illnesses. Despite the known dangers of tobacco 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 government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Research shows that educational efforts like Tips provide a good return on investment because they save lives and lower health care costs. The Tips campaign serves as an important counter to the $8.5 billion that the tobacco industry spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes in 2014—more than $23 million every day, and nearly $1 million every hour. To put this into perspective, the Tips campaign that ran in 2012 cost less than what the tobacco industry spends in 3 days to market and promote cigarettes.

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.

In addition, 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 avert 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 – it saves lives and saves money.

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 tobacco 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.

Tips ads focus on many health issues caused by, associated with, or made worse by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, including:

  • Cancer (lung, throat, head and neck, colorectal)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes complications
  • Buerger’s disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Gum disease
  • Preterm birth
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
  • Vision loss
  • Dual use (the current use of both cigarettes and electronic cigarettes)
  • Mental health conditions (depression and anxiety)

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 tobacco use epidemic. Many studies have shown that ads carrying strong graphic and emotional messages about health consequences are more effective than other forms of advertising, such as humorous or emotionally neutral advertisements. Given the large scientific evidence base supporting this approach, CDC uses graphic and emotional advertisements in Tips. CDC tested these ads first with groups of smokers, and the results found that these ads would be effective. Smokers said these kinds of messages can help them quit successfully.

The Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign not only stirs emotions such as fear about the negative consequences of tobacco smoking, but also provides a supportive call to action “You Can Quit” and directs smokers to free resources to help them be successful.(For example, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-855-DÉJELO YA for Spanish speakers). Free help is also available through the following Asian-language quitlines:

  • Mandarin and Cantonese: 1-800-838-8917
  • Korean: 1-800-556-5564
  • Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440

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 taken several steps within the conventions of broadcast advertising to make sure 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).

Are the people featured in this campaign real or actors?

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

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 smoking, encourage smokers to quit, and provide information on how to quit.

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.

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 US Surgeon General has concluded that tobacco smoking causes heart disease; approximately one-third of heart disease deaths in the United States are caused by tobacco smoking. The former smokers featured in the ads, including those who developed heart disease as a result of smoking, are sharing their own stories in the hopes that their experiences can help others.

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, including about 41,000 of 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 exposure. 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 frequent and severe asthma attacks.

Only 100% smokefree indoor environments fully protect nonsmokers from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke. Science shows that 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 (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/secondhand_smoke/index.htm) page.

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 policies plus other helpful information about tobacco use in your state.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation also provides information on smokefree policies in your community. A list of communities with comprehensive smokefree policies in indoor public areas is available at http://www.no-smoke.org/goingsmokefree.php?id=519 http://www.no-smoke.org/goingsmokefree.php?id=519.

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 from the harmful effects of smoking is to quit smoking completely.

Are there resources for people who want to quit smoking?

There are several 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. Free help is also available through the following Asian-language quitlines:

  • Mandarin and Cantonese: 1-800-838-8917
  • Korean:1-800-556-5564
  • Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440

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 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)
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