Big Tobacco companies will begin airing anti-smoking advertisements during primetime television and in newspapers due to a federal court order requirement.
“The impact we hope it has is to open the public’s eyes once again to the dangers of tobacco,” Cam Scott with the American Cancer Society said. “I think people have maybe lost track of tobacco and how deadly tobacco really is. Tobacco kills more people than car accidents, murder, suicide, AIDS, alcohol – all of those things combined.”
Full-page newspaper advertisements will appear in major papers in 50 cities through April 2018. The television ads will begin Nov. 27 and run for 52 weeks. They outline the dangers of cigarettes and secondhand smoke. They will also be placed on the newspapers’ websites. The ads have black text on a white background. One says, “Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder and pancreas.”
Dr. Philip Huang, health authority and medical director at Austin Public Health, said these advertisements are a significant step by the tobacco companies because of the detail behind the warnings related to their product.
“Every channel, every tweet, every possible way to get the message out is important,” he said.
Twenty-year-old Alex Barnes said he supports these warnings, especially because he says people his age and younger don’t often get the interaction they need to be steered away from tobacco. But he says the ads should be taken a step further, since people his age primarily get their information right at their fingertips.
“Potentially deeper into social media, something where people are actually looking and they’re not just trying to see something and then walking away from it,” he said.
Barnes suggested there should be more events around anti-smoking efforts for youth and young adults, which he thinks would encourage face-to-face conversations, rather than just words on a post or ad.
Nathaniel Riggan, 21, agrees that the ads will have a positive impact.
“I do think that especially will be beneficial because that’s going to be communicated to kids,” he said. “That’s a period of time when you’re most impressionable.”
Scott hopes the message resonates with policy makers and that they’ll set aside funding for tobacco prevention and cessation for adults. He hopes the warnings about secondhand smoke will also stick with them.
“For the first time, the tobacco industry will be required to admit that secondhand smoke is deadly,” Scott said. “A lot of cities in Texas – over 80 cities in Texas – have now passed comprehensive smoke-free policies. We encourage more cities to do that and we encourage the state to do the same.”
According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, around 27 percent of cancer deaths in Texas are attributable to smoking.