State Health Department Unveils Hard-Hitting Smoking Cessation Public Service Announcements

Graphic, Emotional Ads Highlight Consequences of Smoking

BUFFALO, N.Y. (July 28, 2010) – The New York State Health Department (DOH) today introduced two new hard-hitting TV public service announcements that are intended to give smokers a wake-up call.

"These commercials are designed to motivate smokers to quit," said New York State Tobacco Control Director Jeffrey Willett at the unveiling of the new ads at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, the location of the New York State Smokers' Quitline. "Some viewers may complain the ads are too graphic or emotional, but research shows strong images and messages are necessary to get smokers' attention."

In one of the ads a surgeon's gloved hand squeezes out thick fatty deposits from the aorta wall of a 32-year-old smoker. In the second, a young child cries in a busy train station when he is briefly separated from his mother, reminding viewers that smoking kills, sometimes resulting in the loss of a child's parent.

Parts of New York State smoking cessation ads and an interview with Jeffrey Willett were featured in a segment on "Shock Ads" on ABC News Nightline on July 28. The segment can be viewed at:

"Our ads must compete to get the attention of smokers, especially when you consider that in New York State alone the tobacco industry spends approximately $430 million annually on advertising to encourage New Yorkers to smoke," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The impact on the health of New Yorkers is catastrophic, with more than 25,500 New Yorkers dying each year as a result of smoking, and nearly 21,000 children under age 18 in the State becoming new smokers each year."

Commissioner Daines said smoking also exacts a high financial toll, with health care costs from treating smoking-caused diseases totaling approximately $8 billion a year in the State.

DOH will begin airing the two 30-second ads on television stations statewide on Aug. 3. Each ad ends with contact information for the Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487).

The campaign is supported by a $1.8 million grant from the Prevention and Wellness fund of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which will cover the cost of running the ads in August and September of 2011, as well.

"Nearly all adult smokers say they regret their decision to ever start smoking and 75 percent of the 2.7 million smokers in New York say they are interested in stopping smoking," said Michael Cummings, Ph.D., MPH, chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "The Quitline is here to help them do exactly that."

See attachment for smoking rates by county.

"Ads that are intense, graphic and emotionally arousing stick with viewers and motivate them to take action," said Maansi Bansal-Travers, Ph.D., a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Dr. Bansal-Travers tests print and television ads, using Web surveys, focus groups, and eye-tracking methodology.

All of DOH's smoking cessation ads are pretested with New Yorkers who smoke. At least 70 percent of smokers who reviewed the new Separation and Artery ads said the ads grabbed their attention. More than half said the ads made them think about quitting smoking.

The Separation ad depicts the personal and emotional impact that smoking-caused illnesses have on the lives of smokers' families, particularly their children. The ad is designed to encourage parents who smoke to consider the potential impact of their death on their children.

The Artery ad shows smokers the kind of damage cigarette smoking is doing to their bodies, taking the risk of smoking from an abstract concept to a chilling reality.

Based on the most recent data, approximately 17 percent of adult New Yorkers over age 18 statewide are smokers, with adult smoking rates of 14.5 percent in New York City and 18.5 percent in counties outside New York City. For adult smoking rates by county, see the attachment.

More than 1.3 million calls have been made to the New York State Smokers' Quitline since its inception in January 2000. The Quitline is a free resource for New York State residents and offers smoking cessation services tailored to the caller's schedule and needs, including:

  • Free starter kit of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges for eligible smokers.
  • Trained Quitline specialists offering help with quit plans.
  • Information about local stop-smoking programs.
  • Motivational taped messages.
  • Online support and information (

New Yorkers can call the Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487). Call hours are: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. During the hours that the Quitline is closed, taped messages offer support and help for quitting smoking. The online Smokers' Quitsite ( is available 24 hours a day and offers tips for quitting, daily tips, and free nicotine replacement therapy to eligible New Yorkers.

Percentage of New Yorkers Who Smoke by County

Based on the most recent data (July 2008 – June 2009), the percentage of New Yorkers over age 18 who smoke follows:

County %
Albany 16.5
Allegany 25.5
Broome 20.5
Cattaraugus 24.4
Cayuga 22.9
Chautauqua 26.0
Chemung 30.8
Chenango 25.0
Clinton 21.7
Columbia 24.7
Cortland 21.2
Delaware 22.2
Dutchess 18.4
Erie 26.7
Essex 24.2
Franklin 30.7
Fulton 24.6
Genesee 18.7
Greene 24.3
Hamilton 22.9
Herkimer 20.9
Jefferson 23.7
Lewis 19.3
Livingston 16.9
Madison 25.4
Monroe 19.6
Montgomery 22.9
Nassau 10.1
Niagara 27.1
Oneida 25.1
Onondaga 20.0
Ontario 20.0
Orange 19.6
Orleans 29.9
Oswego 24.7
Otsego 22.4
Putnam 13.1
Rensselaer 18.6
Rockland 9.7
Saratoga 16.9
Schenectady 17.4
Schoharie 24.3
Schuyler 23.2
Seneca 24.3
St. Lawrence 24.7
Steuben 22.1
Suffolk 17.7
Sullivan 28.9
Tioga 22.1
Tompkins 12.5
Ulster 22.7
Warren 21.7
Washington 23.5
Wayne 19.9
Westchester 12.3
Wyoming 22.3
Yates 17.4
New York State 17.0
New York State, exclusive of New York City 18.9
New York City 14.5