March 15, 2012
Today, we’re announcing the latest step this Administration is taking in our fight against the number one cause of preventable death in America. The new ad campaign we are launching today will feature some of the most moving and attention-grabbing stories about smoking’s devastating health effects ever seen in popular media. And we expect it will lead more than half a million smokers to seek out the resources they need to quit.
When we look back just a few decades to the days of smoking on airplanes and elevators, it can be easy to focus on how far we've come since then. It can be easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency and start to think of tobacco use as a problem that will go away on its own.
But the numbers tell a very different story. Tobacco continues to kill 443,000 Americans each year. And for every person who dies from smoking, at least two new young smokers take their place. In total, nearly 4,000 young people under 18 smoke their first cigarette every day, recruited by a tobacco industry that spends more than $10 billion a year to sell its products as cool and fun.
The ad campaign we’re launching today will tell the real story of how tobacco use can change your life. The courageous people who have volunteered to be in this campaign have lost lungs, legs, fingers, and the ability to speak as a result of smoking's toll.
Stories like these are already familiar to the millions of Americans currently suffering from tobacco-related illnesses and their families. But we hope these ads, based on successful campaigns in several states, will be a wakeup call for the smokers and potential smokers who are not yet aware of the enormous damage they may be doing to their health.
This campaign will build on a broad agenda we’ve undertaken in the last three years to stop kids from starting to smoke and help the 70 percent of smokers who want to quit make that difficult leap.
We’ve enacted historic anti-tobacco legislation that cracks down on the backdoor tactics tobacco companies use to market their products to kids and restricts the use of misleading terms like “light” or “mild.” These reforms had been debated for years. Now they’re the law of the land.
We’ve passed a health care law that’s making it much easier for people to get counseling to help them quit smoking. And we made a key change so that Medicare now covers this treatment before people get sick, instead of forcing them to wait until after symptoms start showing up.
We’re also supporting state-based quit lines, and backing proven local anti-tobacco programs, that can eventually become models for the rest of the country. And there are signs that momentum is building around the country. For the first time, we now have comprehensive smoke-free laws in more than half of states.
As we pursue these efforts, we’re also conscious of the enormous burden tobacco use puts on our economy: almost $200 billion a year. Any step we can take to reduce tobacco use even a small amount is likely to have a huge payoff in reduced health care costs and higher productivity. And in fact, we estimate that this campaign will save $170 million over the next three years.
As last week’s Surgeon General’s report made clear, if we want to accelerate falling tobacco rates, we need to take an all-of-the-above approach that reaches everyone from the 12-year-old thinking of taking his first puff to the 75-year-old lifetime smoker who could still reap huge health benefits from quitting.
That’s what we’ve been doing, and this campaign is a key addition to those efforts.