CDC smoking ads show big results

Graphic anti-smoking campaign showing greater results than expected


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many have probably seen the commercials. Graphic anti-smoking ads that show the real-life health dangers associated with the addictive habit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's the first time the U.S. has paid for an anti-smoking ad, and its initial results suggest the impact is greater than anyone imagined.

Channel 4 spoke with a local marketing firm about the ads, and some of the feedback has been negative.

It's a $54 million campaign that generated a quarter-million phone calls to the toll-free quit hotline. The commercials are hard-hitting, but they seem to have struck a chord with those who desire to quit.

"You look at yourself in the future and say, 'Is that going to be me,'" smoker Shannon Arsenault said.

"I feel it was intense, hard-hitting, the reality of smoking," added Kyshia Williams, who does not smoke. "People need to see that."

A half-million smokers logged onto the smokefree.gov website, which offers cessation tips. That's triple the site's previous traffic.

Advertising executives at St. John and Partners said the ads came with calculated risks.

"I'm sure they had the process," said David Bonner, of St. John and Partners. "Is it hard-hitting? Is the result worth the means that they've gone through?"

Creative director Bonner expects the CDC to create another ad campaign soon, making the dangers to smoking accessible and realistic once again.

But not everyone is pleased with the ads.

Some smokers said showing amputations and paralysis is too much. But that's the dark side of smoking, one the CDC doesn't plan to sugar coat.

"There's always tweaking they can make. That can work," Bonner said. "There is an art and science to this."