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New State TV Ads Link Smoking to Impotence in Men


SACRAMENTO — What Viagra may give, tobacco taketh away. So says the California Department of Health Services.

State health officials, trying to pound their anti-tobacco message through to young men, unveiled new television commercials Monday making the point that smoking is a leading cause of impotence.

The new ad, part of the state's $22-million-a-year anti-smoking campaign, portrays a black-tie gala. A debonair man wearing a tuxedo eyes an elegant young woman dressed in a clinging gown. She gazes at him. He lights a cigarette.

His cigarette goes limp.

She smirks, shakes her head and walks away.

"Now that medical researchers believe cigarettes are a leading cause of impotence, you're going to be looking at smoking a little differently," the narrator says.

To drive home the point, another head-turning woman at the party walks past three men, each of whom is smoking. Their cigarettes turn flaccid too.

"Cigarettes," the ad concludes. "Still think they're sexy?"

State Health Director Kim Belshe said at a news conference where the ad was unveiled that preachy appeals about smoking's connection to cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure may not deter young men from smoking.

"Maybe they'll be more inclined to quit to save their sex lives," Belshe said.

The limp-cigarette commercial is one of five anti-tobacco television ads released Monday, along with billboards and radio spots.

To support the contention that smoking is linked to impotence, officials were accompanied by Dr. Christopher Evans, a professor of urological surgery and oncology at UC Davis.

Evans called smoking the "most preventable cause" of impotence, and cited a medical study reporting that smokers had a 50% higher incidence of impotence than nonsmokers.

Smoking affects male sexuality by restricting the flow of blood and causing long-term damage to blood vessels.

The new ads follow legislative hearings this year in which Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) criticized the department for delaying the release of new ads.

Thompson pushed the administration to agree to spend an additional $40 million on the state's anti-tobacco education and research effort, which is funded by a voter-approved 25-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes.

"I hope I was able to light the fire to let them know we mean business and we want good ads," Thompson said.

While Thompson complained about delays in the ad program, anti-tobacco activists have charged that the administration has failed to release other hard-hitting ads. Nonetheless, Sandra Smoley, Gov. Pete Wilson's health and welfare secretary, hailed the new spots as "some of the toughest anyone has ever seen."

One of the new spots shows an elderly man in a hospital bed hooked up to various life-preserving devices.

"I'd like to read something the head of a tobacco company said: 'It's unclear in my mind whether anybody dies from smoking,' " the man says.

"Well, let me clear things up for him. My doctor says I have less than a year to live."

State health department officials said the man, identified only as Aaron from the Los Angeles area, was the fourth patient with a tobacco-related illness picked to read the script. The first three died.

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