New TV, radio anti-smoking campaign gets trial run in Baltimore

January 23, 2007|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,Sun Reporter

Baltimore will be one of four cities airing edgy new ads aimed at helping people quit smoking, city officials announced yesterday.

The ad campaign, called "EX" (as in ex-smoker), is part of a pilot program sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, a Washington-based anti-smoking advocacy organization.

The foundation is best known for its provocative "Truth" anti-smoking spots targeting teens. One ad, for example, features a cowboy with a smoking-related laryngectomy crooning in Times Square.

The new campaign represents a tactical change from traditional anti-tobacco ads. "Until now, many stop-smoking efforts have been preachy," said Cheryl Healton, president of the American Legacy Foundation.

Foundation officials said they chose Baltimore because of its high number of smokers, especially in the African-American community.

More than one in five adults in Baltimore smokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maryland, 24 percent of blacks smoke, compared with 20 percent of Hispanics and 17 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to the CDC.

Healton, a former smoker, said studies have shown most nicotine addicts already know smoking is harmful and want to quit. What they lack, she says, is information about how to do it.

The campaign, which will air on television and radio through June, encourages smokers to call a toll-free hot line: 800-QUIT-NOW.

The hot line, monitored by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, offers coaching and information about local cessation programs.

Smokers can also obtain a free book, the EX Quit Manual, that offers step-by-step plans to break nicotine addiction. It's available by calling the toll-free number or through a new Web site, www.be comeanex.org.

"Over the next several months, you'll be hearing a great deal about EX," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore health commissioner, said at yesterday's news conference.

The campaign, Healton said, stresses a combination approach that has been shown to be effective in helping people quit: professional counseling, medications such as a nicotine patch and social support

The foundation is also testing the campaign in Buffalo, N.Y., San Antonio, Texas, and Grand Rapids, Mich. If it proves successful, foundation officials said, they will take it nationwide.

michael.stroh@baltsun.com

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