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'Tips From Smokers' Campaign Beat Expectations

Real-life depictions of tobacco's devastating health consequences moved many Americans to quit, study found

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To craft the campaign, the CDC consulted with health officials who had run prior campaigns in cities, states and other countries, McAfee said.

But the best advice came from about 10,000 smokers who were consulted while the CDC designed the campaign about what would make the most impact.

"What we heard from them was the thing that would be most motivating would be real stories from real smokers about the harm smoking had done to them," McAfee said.

The CDC will continue the campaign, using new testimonials to keep the message fresh. The agency already broadcast a sequel campaign that ran from March to June 2013.

"We would love to continue to do this," McAfee said. "We're doing it three months out of the year because that's basically the money we have. In other countries, they've done year-round campaigns."

The study noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to launch a similar anti-tobacco campaign in 2014 targeting teenagers and young adults.

Nonprofit anti-tobacco groups like the American Cancer Society also might take the lessons from the CDC campaign and use them in their own ad efforts, Glynn said. It is likely, however, that only a coalition of several or many groups would be able to have the same impact as the CDC campaign.

"It is expensive. It cost about $54 million, which for most organizations would be a very big spend," Glynn said. "The CDC is in the best position to do this."

Group efforts will be needed to combat the tobacco industry, which spent $8.6 billion on advertising in 2011, he said.

McAfee said the CDC estimates as many as 330,000 years of life were saved as a result of people quitting smoking due to the campaign.

"That adds up to less than $200 we spent per year of life saved," he said. "It's like the bargain of the century for public health."

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