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Tobacco companies fight to keep smoke in our eyes -- and lungs

August 07, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • The CDC's graphic commercials showing the ravages of smoking-related illness are having a dramatic effect on people's desire to quit, according to a story published this week by USA Today.
The CDC's graphic commercials showing the ravages of smoking-related… (Los Angeles Times )

The U.S. Centers for Disease ControlĀ  had some good news for the health of the American public this week: Its graphic commercials showing the ravages of smoking-related illness are having a dramatic effect on people's desire to quit, according to a story published this week by USA Today. It's hard to ignore a real-life throat-cancer patient who speaks in a barely comprehensible rasp as she dons her wig, her false teeth and an artificial larynx for the day. This and similar ad spots have led to a sharp increase in calls and visits to the government's smoking-cessation hotline and tips website.

But before we celebrate too joyously, it's worth noting another CDC report that came out last week. Cigarette smoking continues to decline in the United States, but that drop is being offset by steep increases in sales of pipe tobacco, used for roll-your-own cigarettes, as well as cigars that are made big enough to escape cigarette taxes but small enough to remind consumers of their favorite smokes.

Strange to say, some people are complaining that the commercials are too graphic. It's certainly a lot easier for tobacco companies to show pretty ads. But I'm figuring that if TV viewers can hardly wait for the next episode of fictional gore in"Breaking Bad,"they can handle the real-life ugliness of the nation's No. 1 cause of premature death.

Walter White might be waging a deadly battle for control of the meth market, but the CDC is fighting for your lungs. The tobacco companies, obviously, aren't giving up their claim to those lungs--and throats and mouths--so easily.

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