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California hopes disturbing ads deter smokers

ad March 21, 1997
Web posted at: 1:45 a.m. EST

From CNN Correspondent Don Knapp

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- Smoke wafts from the gaping hole in a woman's neck.

A gruesome image, but one the state of California hopes will be effective.

In a new campaign to counter tobacco industry advertising, viewers in California will see the true story of a 46-year-old woman who says she's been smoking since she was 13. On camera, she says that even after losing her voice box to throat cancer, she can't kick the addiction.

Her point is driven home vividly when she takes a drag off a cigarette through a hole in her throat.

The $13 million advertisment campaign, paid for by a voter-mandated tax of 25 cents per pack of cigarettes, targets kids, parents of young children and other smokers.

"What we're talking about is an effort to change the perception of tobacco from being something viewed as acceptable and even glamorous to a more realistic view of tobacco use as dangerous, addictive and socially unacceptable," said Kim Belshe of California's Department of Health Services.

One ad tries to inject a sense of humor with the message that cigarette butts are too disgusting even for toilets.

Connie Pechmann, a consultant for the Heart Association, admits even she had some reservations about the in-your-face ads.

"I was worried when I heard some concerns about it, but when I saw it, I felt very moved," she said. "I thought they did a good job."

kids & cigarettes

Alan Henderson of the American Cancer Society had a more mixed reaction.

"I'm pleased with some, but not pleased with others," he said.

Calling attention to tobacco industry

Paul Knepprath of the American Lung Association said he felt the ads were sufficiently critical of the tobacco industry.


"The certainly attack the industry, and we're glad to see that," he said.

The ads are designed to counter the tobacco industry's $6 billion-a-year advertising and promotion budget and perhaps also counter those who claim California Gov. Pete Wilson is tobacco-friendly.

Two years ago, Wilson's administration withdrew a powerful anti-smoking ad after the tobacco industry threatened lawsuits.

His critics may not be raving about these new ads, but they're giving them a passing grade for now.

The true test will be whether the ads work to deter people from smoking.


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