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Press Release

Press Release # 063-08
Monday, September 22, 2008

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti/Sara Markt,

With New Matchbooks, Health Department Gives Smokers a Reality Check

Images of disabling and deadly health effects may make smokers think twice before lighting up

September 22, 2008 – The Health Department today unveiled a new line of matchbooks, which use vivid images of the effects of smoking to prompt smokers to quit. Images of ravaged lungs, rotting gums and large, painful tumors are also designed to counter tobacco industry marketing, which undercuts awareness of the devastating consequences of smoking. The matchbooks, an extension of the Health Department’s 2008 “Eating You Alive” advertising campaign, are free at 132 cigarette retailers in the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and North and Central Brooklyn.

Cigarettes are eating you alive“Throat cancer, gum disease, blackened lungs – these are the realities of smoking,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “Many countries put these images right on the cigarette pack, where they belong.  While the US hasn’t done this yet – and New York City is pre-empted from requiring cigarette package labels – we are putting these images where New Yorkers buy cigarettes, just before they light up, in the hope they’ll think twice about the decision to continue smoking.”

The new campaign draws inspiration from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Thailand, and other countries, where cigarette packs carry graphic warnings. Studies suggest that the approach encourages smokers to quit. Pack warnings in the United States began in 1966 after the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health. The inconspicuous text-only messages appear on the side of cigarette packs and in ads. The four current rotating warnings have not been updated in more than 20 years, since 1984. New York City and New York State are prohibited from mandating stronger warnings such as the ones appearing on the Health Department's matchbooks.

“The tobacco industry spends $13 billion dollars each year promoting smoking by showing glamorous, healthful images,” said Sarah B. Perl, the Health Department’s assistant commissioner for tobacco control. “The reality of smoking is ugly and devastating. We hope these images will encourage New Yorkers to get the help they need to quit.”

If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do for your health. New Yorkers who want to protect themselves and others from the deadly effects of tobacco should call 311.