New anti-smoking campaign: Is it too graphic?


(CBS News) An unprecedented ad campaign from the federal government targets the dangers of smoking in a series of graphic print ads and some tough-to-watch TV commercials.

The $54 million effort by the Centers for Disease Control will start appearing on television and in newspapers next week. It's the first nationwide campaign and it's meant to give a jolt to the stalled decline in smoking in this country.

"Tips from Former Smokers" is an attempt to shock people by showing them the toll smoking wreaks on people. It is also an effort to counteract the estimated $10.5 billion a year spent by tobacco companies to market and promote cigarettes.

But, are graphic ads effective in reducing the numbers of smokers?

Public to be hit with graphic anti-smoking ads

Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, director of the smoking cessation program at NYU's Langone Medical Center said there is some evidence from studies done around the world that graphic images have been effective at getting people to realize that smoking is not good for them.

"But the message can get lost," Whiteson said. "People will be disturbed by these images and they may look away and say, 'I can't look at that.'"

Then what works?

Whiteson suggests a multi-pronged approach including raising taxes on cigarettes to make them more expensive as well as making smoking anti-social by prohibiting it in public places. He also recommends preventing product placement and limiting how the tobacco industry can advertise or use their dollars to promote cigarettes to adults and children.

"We have to have a concerted effort and use all the weapons that we have," Whiteson said. "We have to talk about it. It's very important."

To see the full interview with Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, click on the video in the player above.