By Julian Pecquet - 03/15/12 05:34 PM EDT
"Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost each year due to smoking, and for every person who dies, 20 more Americans live with an illness caused by smoking," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ Sebelius: 'Repugnant' for states to reject Medicaid expansion MORE
said in a statement announcing the campaign. "We cannot afford to continue watching the human and economic toll from tobacco rob our communities of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and co-workers. We are committed to doing everything we can to help smokers quit and prevent young people from starting in the first place."
According to HHS, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 443,000 Americans each year and costing $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity each year.
The ad campaign comes as the administration battles tobacco companies in court over regulations mandating graphic visuals on cigarette packs and advertising.