Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday the "Tips from Former Smokers" ads will begin running nationally Monday for at least 12 weeks on television, radio, billboards, online, as well as in theaters, magazines and newspapers.
The ads, estimated to cost about $50 million, focus on smoking-related lung and throat cancer, heart attack, stroke, Buerger's disease and asthma. They feature suggestions from former smokers on how to get dressed with a surgical opening in the neck, artificial limbs or scars from heart surgery.
"Although they may be tough to watch, the ads show real people living with real, painful consequences from smoking," Frieden told a Washington news conference.
"There is sound evidence that supports the use of these types of hard-hitting images and messages to encourage smokers to quit, to keep children from ever beginning to smoke, and to drastically reduce the harm caused by tobacco."
The ads direct smokers who want to quit to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or the www.smokefree.gov Web site.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 443,000 people each year, costing $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity, the CDC said.
More than 8 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease, and every day more than 1,000 youth age 18 and younger become daily smokers, Frieden said.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. spokesman David Howard told The New York Times he would not comment on the government's campaign, not having seen it.
"We believe that adult tobacco consumers should be provided with accurate information about the risks associated with tobacco use," he said.
R.J. Reynolds, the No. 2 U.S. tobacco company, is part of a group of tobacco makers suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about rules that would require cigarette companies to put graphic warning labels over much of their packaging.
A federal judge in Washington ruled two weeks ago the rules unconstitutionally violated the companies' free-speech rights. The government is appealing.