What Do You Think About Aggressive Anti-Smoking Campaigns?

By Emily Murray

For the most part in life we are taught to follow the golden rule ‘to each their own,’ meaning don’t judge others on their actions. When it comes to a life-threatening habit however (for not just the participant but others nearby) are we still expected to remain impartial?

If you ask the government, the answer is no.

While there has been plenty of chatter over the last year about shock campaigns to help convince smokers to quit (and others to “just say no”) like the FDA’s attempt to alter cigarette labels, this is the first time we have seen a direct opinion voiced by the government formally attacking the tobacco industry. Federal health officials are releasing a series of graphic images and videos that feature “tips from an ex-smoker.” This campaign highlights those who have lost limbs, their voices, hair and essentially their health giving “advice” to those who smoke. These messages include things like “allow extra time to put on your legs,” which appears over the image of a 31-year-old man who lost his legs to smoking -related cancer.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) officials believe that by taking this active stance with their $54 million/yr campaign they will be saving lives. In fact, a recent NY Times article on this issue contained a quote with a pretty positive and hopeful message.

“We estimate that this campaign will help about 50,000 smokers to quit smoking,” the NY Times quotes Dr. Frieden the CDC’s director as having said in a recent interview.  “And that will translate not only into thousands who will not die from smoking but it will pay for itself in a few years in reduced health costs.”

Like any campaign featuring such disturbing and graphic images, it has been met with some opposition, perhaps not-so-surprisingly by those who currently smoke. They feel that they know the risks and do not need to have them thrown in their face. But what about those who are younger who light up that cigarette for the very first time? Could they be discouraged from taking that first puff my seeing images of a woman with a tracheotomy?

Many believe, it is very likely that these images can work.

This same idea was recently applied by the FDA when it came to outfitting cigarette packs with similar shocking photos and messages of warning. Of course the tobacco industry was up in arms about this and in the end, the packaging was deemed unconstitutional since it violated the companies’ freedom of speech rights.

So it this government campaign the next best thing?

Decide for yourself when these ads begin to pop up as early as next week.