New Anti-Smoking Ads Target E-Cigarette Industry

By May Wilkerson 03/31/15

A $68 million ad campaign has been launched to raise awareness about the possible dangers of vaping.

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The government has released a round of anti-smoking ads taking aim at the e-cigarette industry for the first time. The ads, airing today on TV, radio and in print, link the electronic nicotine devices to a range of diseases typically associated with tobacco smoking.

Research has yielded mixed results for the potential harms of e-cigs, which involve inhaling nicotine-infused vapor and have been touted as an effective way for smokers to wean off tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to regulate them about a year ago but has yet to establish set guidelines.

The new ads, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), echo the graphic warnings used in past anti-smoking ads. One print ad shows a photo of a 35-year-old woman with a surgical scar on her side and the words: "I started using e-cigarettes but kept smoking. Right up until my lung collapsed."

CDC director Tom Frieden says the ads are meant to remind people that the potential dangers of e-cigs remain unknown and it’s important to be wary. "There's still a lot we don't know about e-cigarettes, and we have to remember they are tobacco products,” he says. “There are things we don't know about their toxicity."

Frieden also says the devices may be more of a gateway to traditional smoking than a way to quit. Past studies have shown that teens who use e-cigs, known as “vaping,” are more likely to try tobacco cigarettes. 

The new $68 million ad campaign also highlights the dangers of tobacco smoking, which has been linked to a range of diseases including cancer, macular degeneration and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, like emphysema and bronchitis.

About 443,000 Americans die each year from smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

The CDC’s famously graphic anti-smoking ads have been considered successful in the past. After one campaign, 100,000 people gave up smoking for six months or more, according to research. Another 100,000 quit for shorter periods of time, and 1.6 million reportedly tried to quit after seeing the ads. 

An estimated 46.6 million Americans still smoke tobacco.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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