City Lights Ugly Campaign To Deter Smokers
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Rotting teeth, blackened lungs and oozing tumors are among the grisly images on free matchbooks the city’s health department is now giving away in a new anti-smoking tactic.
Starting this week, 330,000 matchbooks will be distributed to bodegas in the South Bronx, central and east Harlem, and north and central Brooklyn, where health officials said they hope their message will reach smokers and convince them to quit.
The promotion is the latest in a string of graphic advertisements, including television spots featuring a man with a hole in his throat and a woman who underwent multiple amputations as a result of smoking-related ailments. Health officials, who passed a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003, said they have embraced the scare tactic method to convey their message.
“They’re graphic, they’re ugly, and they’re true,” the health department’s assistant commissioner for tobacco control, Sarah Perl, said. She said the tobacco industry spends about $13 billion a year to promote smoking as healthy or glamorous. “The truth is much closer to the images that we’ve put on these matchbooks.”
The current campaign is based on graphic advertisements placed on cigarette packages in other countries such as Canada, Thailand and Australia. City health officials said they support changing federal laws governing cigarette packages to include more prominent or graphic warnings. In the interim, they said they hope to utilize matchbooks.
“Many countries put these images right on the cigarette pack, where they belong,” the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said in a statement. “We are putting these images where New Yorkers buy cigarettes, just before they light up, in the hope they’ll think twice about the decision to continue smoking.”
Officials said the graphic warnings have proved to be effective. Since the health department launched a graphic anti-smoking campaign, she said the number of calls to 311 by smokers who want to quit increased to 50,000 in fiscal year 2008, up from 11,000 in 2005. “These are the kind of images that get people to make those decisions,” Ms. Perl said.