By Paul Kurtz and Nicole Brewer
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the tobacco industry battles an effort to place more graphic warnings on cigarette packs, the federal government is using another tactic to get the word out about the dangers of tobacco use.
The Centers for Disease Control is rolling out advertisements — in print and on radio and TV — featuring firsthand accounts of long-time smokers who have suffered the consequences.
“It began with my big toe,” says one woman in a television spot. “That was the first amputation that I had.”
The $54-million campaign is designed to get smokers to stop, and to prevent those who don’t smoke — especially kids — from starting.
Philadelphia city councilwoman Marian Tasco is hoping the ads will have an impact. Philadelphia has the highest underage smoking rate of any big city in the US.
In 2010, Tasco ushered in legislation raising the fine on retailers who sell tobacco to teens to $250. But she says enforcement has been a problem.
“Unless somebody reports it, you don’t catch the merchant who’s selling the cigarettes,” she notes. “Those that we catch, we will fine. Those that ignore and we continue to catch could possibly lose their businesses.”
Researchers say teens who try to buy tobacco products illegally succeed 20 percent of the time.