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Washington (CNN) — Federal health officials on Thursday are unveiling a $54 million national media campaign to get smokers to quit and prevent anyone else, especially children, from starting.
The campaign, called “Tips From Former Smokers,” is intended to educate Americans about the dangers of smoking through the stories and graphic pictures of ex-smokers who have suffered severe health consequences of tobacco use.
The former smokers profiled have suffered ailments such as stroke-related paralysis, limb amputation, lung removal and heart attack. One breathes through a stoma, a surgically created hole in the neck through which a person who has undergone larynx or voice box surgery can breathe.
“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 Sebelius said in a statement.
“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.”
The ads are the brainchild of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health. The agency says smoking remains the country’s leading cause of disease and preventable death, resulting in more than 443,000 fatalities annually. More than 8 million Americans live with a smoking-related illness or conditions, according to the disease agency.