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Press Release

Press Release # 095-07
Monday, November 26, 2007

Health Department:
(212) 788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti (
Sara Markt (


Television Ads Respond to Smokers Personal Stories

NEW YORK CITY – November 26, 2007 – Most smokers can list the many health effects of cigarettes – lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, heart disease – but few fully appreciate the challenges faced by those who struggle with the addiction. For more than a year, the Health Department has conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews to learn more about issues smokers are concerned about and what motivates them to quit.  During the interviews and group discussions, smokers indicated that they distance themselves from the fatal consequences of smoking and promise to quit another day. In a new television ad campaign, the Health Department addresses these challenges. “Quitting is hard,” the tagline advises. “Not quitting is harder.”

There are more than a million smokers in New York City,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “This new ad campaign was designed to address the obstacles smokers face when they try to quit.  Smokers have a hard time quitting, but not quitting could cost you your health and your life.”

In interviews and focus groups, smokers discussed their need to distance themselves from the grim realities of smoking by convincing themselves that smoking-related illnesses such as cancer were caused by other factors. Some smokers said it might take a diagnosis of a smoking-related illness for them to quit. 

To address these issues, the ad pairs statements from smokers who have not yet been able to quit with smokers suffering the ravages of tobacco-related illness.

“I can't go more than a few hours without a cigarette,” says a twenty-something man. “I can't go more than a few feet without the oxygen tank,” whispers a patient dying from a tobacco-related illness.

The ad, originally produced for the California Department of Health Services, takes new approach to help people quit through counter-marketing. While earlier Health Department ads have graphically depicted the physical damage caused by smoking, the new ads target the psychological barriers that smokers experience.

To complement this ad, the campaign uses a second advertisement, called Sponge, to highlight the damage and long-term risks associated with smoking. In the ad, black sludge pours from a sponge into a beaker, showing how much tar a smoker’s lungs absorb over the course of a year.

Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health

There are many health benefits to quitting, and they begin just 24 hours after you stop.

In 24 hours

• Your chance of heart attack drops.

In 2 days

• Your ability to smell and taste improves.

In 2 to 3 weeks

• Your circulation gets better.
• You can walk more easily.
• Your lung function improves.

In 1 month

• Your cough, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease.
• Your lungs start to repair themselves, reducing the chance of infection.

In 1 year

• Your risk of heart disease is cut in half.

In 5 years

• Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus drops by about half.
• Your risk of stroke and heart disease begins to decrease

In 10 years

• Your risk of lung cancer is about half that of continuing smokers.

In 15 years

• Your risk of heart disease returns to the level of people who have never smoked.

Ten ways to make quitting easier

  1. Prepare yourself.
    Make a list of your reasons for quitting and read it often.
  1. Pick a quit date.
    Get rid of ashtrays and lighters, and throw out all cigarettes.
  1. Have a smoke-free car and home.
    It is healthier for others and will help you not smoke.
  1. Get support and encouragement.
    Tell you family, friends, and coworkers that you are quitting and ask for their support.
  1. Get a quit buddy.
    Ask a smoker to quit with you, or find someone who has already quit who you can talk to for support.
  1. Notice what makes you want to smoke.
    Alcohol, coffee, and stress can make you feel like smoking. So can seeing others smoke; ask smokers you know not to light up in front of you.
  1. Think about using medications.
    The nicotine patch or gum, and medications such as Zyban (bupropion) and Chantix (varenicline) greatly reduce your cravings and double your chance of success. Talk to your doctor.
  1. Help yourself cope.
    Drink a lot of water to help with cravings. Exercise to get rid of stress and improve your mood and health; a fast walk often does the trick.
  1. Get your mind off smoking.
    Talk to a friend when you feel like smoking. Get busy with a simple task, eat a healthy snack, take a walk, or chew gum. Stay away from places and situations you associate with smoking.
  1. Stay away from that first cigarette.
    Having even one can make you start up again. Cravings will decrease the longer you don’t smoke. If you can quit for 3 months, you’ll likely quit for good.

Although New York City has 240,000 fewer smokers today than in 2002, a 20% drop, many New Yorkers are still struggling to quit. Individuals who need assistance are urged to call 311 for help.