Senators Applaud First of Its Kind Smoking Prevention Campaign

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today applauded a hard-hitting anti-tobacco media campaign focusing on the immediate and devastating health effects of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s campaign – which is primarily funded through the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act – is its first federally-funded and nationally coordinated smoking prevention campaign, and is expected to save $170 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity over the next three years. 


“This media campaign – which combines traditional television and print advertising with innovative social media outreach – is a powerful response to the slick marketing strategies tobacco companies have been using for decades to hawk their product.  By showing actual people speaking about the devastating impact smoking has had on their lives – and the dual impact it has had on the lives of their loved ones – we hope this media campaign will help encourage thousands of smokers to quit and prevent the next generation from starting in the first place,” the Senators said.


Although the total cost of the campaign is one-half percent of what the tobacco industry spends on marketing every year, it is expected to save three times the investment – $170 million – in non-incurred health costs and lowered productivity over the next three years. The CDC estimates that the campaign will help 50,000 tobacco users quit smoking.


Every year, tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans, most of whom started using tobacco as teenagers. Nearly one in three young adults under 26 smokes, and one out of every three young smokers will die from tobacco-related causes. Evidence has shown that most young adult smokers – particularly those in lower socioeconomic groups – do not recognize the immediate and early effects of tobacco use which are highlighted by this media campaign.


In addition to former smokers suffering from the severe health consequences of tobacco use, the campaign will also feature family members and friends who have been affected by their health conditions. This strategy is meant to encourage an open dialogue between smokers and their loved ones, which is often the first step towards quitting. The campaign also uses targeting advertising placement – such as banners on popular websites – and increased exposure in smoking prevalent areas in order to reach vulnerable populations.


The advertisements will air nationwide for twelve weeks on television, radio, print, online, and out of home placements. In addition, one of the advertisements will air in both English and Spanish. The advertisements and additional resources to help quit smoking can be found here.


The U.S. Surgeon General released a report last week, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, which showed that mass media campaigns such as this one are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use. Following the release of this report, Senators Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin and Blumenthal called for continued investment in successful anti-tobacco efforts. The report also found that states which have maintained or even increased investments in tobacco control have seen measurable health benefits and decreased rates of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.


Last year, Lautenberg, Durbin, and Blumenthal were joined by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in sending a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking it to ban flavored cigars, which have recently become increasingly popular among adolescents.


Citing the influence of Major League Baseball (MLB) players on children and young adults, Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin and Blumenthal called on the MLB Players Association to ban the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues. Under a new collective bargaining agreement set to take effect at the beginning of the 2012 season, players, managers, and coaches will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and Club appearances and, when fans are permitted in the ballpark, they must conceal tobacco products and may not carry tobacco products in their uniforms or on their bodies at any time.