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Gory Ads Scare Smokers to Quit

An anti-smoking campaign featuring graphic, shocking images causes a dramatic upsurge in smokers seeking help.


CDC ads like this one depict the cutthroat effects
of smoking. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda


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After the launch of a $54 million graphic ad campaign by the CDC, calls to a “quit smoking” hotline more than doubled last week. According to federal health officials, 1-800-QUIT-NOW received the highest call volume in 72 years, with over 33,000 calls last week—more than double the 14,500 calls they received the week before. In addition to the call line, clicks to www.smokefree.gov went from around 20,000 to around 66,000, which is the most traffic the website has ever seen. “This is just a rough indicator, but it's a very encouraging one," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "This means tens of thousands of people are seeing the ads and thinking of quitting and trying to quit.” The 12 week ad campaign—kicked off by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 19—was more visually shocking than past advertisements, featuring people whose smoking resulted in laryngectomy, paralysis, lost limbs, and heart surgery. The campaign has been praised by anti-smoking advocates who believe the shocking images may jolt people into thinking about the long-term dangers of smoking. An analysis will be conducted once the campaign ends to asses how many people ultimately quit smoking after viewing the graphic advertisements.

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