Preemie baby and toothless adults urge smokers to quit in new CDC ads


You probably know that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. But former smokers want you to know that cigarettes can give you a stroke, make your teeth fall out and cause your baby to be born dangerously early.

These are some of the stories featured in the latest batch of “Tips From Former Smokers” ads from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The public service announcements will begin appearing nationwide on July 7 and air for nine weeks, the agency said Tuesday.

Previous rounds of the ads have been shown to be a cost-effective means of helping people quit smoking. A report last year in the journal Lancet calculated that the initial 12-week campaign in 2012 prompted 100,000 people to kick the habit, at a cost of $540 per quitter.


In the new crop, Americans will meet Felicita, who started smoking when she was just 12 (with her mother’s permission). Though she quit at age 45, the cigarettes had already caused irreversible gum disease. She would wake up in bed with blood in her mouth and on her pillows. By the time she was 50, all of her teeth had been pulled.

Also featured is Amanda, who smoked while she was pregnant. When her daughter was born two months early, she weighed only 3 pounds and had to spend weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit in a clear plastic incubator. “My tip to you is, ‘Speak into the opening so your baby can hear you better,’ ” Amanda says.

Then there’s Brian, an HIV-positive man who nearly died of complications from the virus. He kept smoking after he was released from the hospital and wound up having a stroke. “Dealing with HIV is hard enough, and having HIV is a part of your life until you die,” he says. “But smoking is something that you do have control over.... Quitting smoking will be your greatest achievement.”

The new ads were chosen to “highlight illnesses and suffering caused by smoking that people don’t commonly associate with cigarette use,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.

Other ads highlight stories of former smokers who developed lung cancer and throat cancer. The ads will direct smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to find local resources to help them quit. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to cover smoking-cessation services, usually without any extra fees.

The “Tips” stories will be seen on television, in movie theaters, on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, and online. They will also air on the radio. Some of the ads will be in Spanish.


Though fewer than 1 in 5 Americans smokes regularly, smoking remains the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., according to the CDC. More than 16 million Americans now suffer from some kind of smoking-related disease, and about 480,000 each year die as a result. Smokers rack up $133 billion in medical costs each year, and their health problems result in another $156 billion in lost productivity, the CDC says.

The agency’s most recent National Adult Tobacco Survey found that 18% of Americans 18 and over used cigarettes on a regular basis. When cigars, pipes, hookahs and other combustible tobacco products were factored in, the figure rose to 19.2%. Men are more likely to smoke than women, as are people with lower incomes and less education and people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan for more news about science and medicine.