Billboards and the public perception of smoking

Not long ago, the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel were ubiquitous via out-of-home advertising.

In 1996, legal-medical expert George J. Annas wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine that Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man were "public health enemies number one and two."

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But these marketing icons faded when cigarette manufacturers dropped outdoor advertising as part of their settlement with 46 states in November of 1998.

Now the Atlanta-based CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advertizes tips from former smokers on billboards and other media.

In 2012, CDC launched the United States' first federally funded anti-smoking advertising campaign. This multi-media campaign featured emotionally evocative and graphic lessons from former smokers.

The government's $54 million first-of-its-kind ad campaign represented three days of the $8 billion spent annually on tobacco promotion and marketing.

But it made a difference.  CDC published these findings in the peer-reviewed global medical journal, The Lancet, regarding the impact of its 2012 campaign:

*       More than 100,000 Americans quit smoking

*       More nonsmokers recommended that smokers quit, and more friends and family talked about the dangers of smoking

*       This type of ad campaign could work in other big countries like China, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia

CDC re-launched its "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign in 2013 ($48 million for 16 weeks of ads on various media).

This year, the $43 million CDC campaign is split into two nine-week periods.  The second part of the 2014 campaign begins July 7, targeted to 24 markets with higher smoking rates.

The United States' federally funded anti-smoking ad campaign has reached most smokers, including in tobacco country.

I know the power of billboards; I've used them in my campaigns to reach commuters in the Atlanta market. Now that power is being used on behalf of public health.

Scott has represented Georgia's 13th Congressional District since 2003. He sits on the Agriculture and the Financial Services committees.