Ariz. Smoking Rate Drops 21 Percent
PHOENIX â€“â€“ The camera zooms in on a teen-age girl in a robe, puffing a cigarette in a bathroom before she starts brushing her perfect teeth. But instead of toothpaste residue falling into the sink, it's wiggling maggots.
She recoils as her mirrored face turns green and clumps of her hair fall out. Within seconds, the beautiful girl is rotting flesh.
The revolting scene is from Arizona's award-winning anti-smoking campaign, and federal health officials say it contributed to a 21 percent drop in the state's smoking rate during the late 1990s.
Telephone surveys found that the number of adult Arizonans who smoke dropped from 23.1 percent in 1996 to 18.3 in 1999, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
Smoking rates fell across age, race and gender lines, with the greatest reduction among Hispanic adults, from 21.9 percent in 1996 to 13.7 percent in 1999.
Arizona health officials also said cigarette use has decreased among high school, junior high and middle school students from 1999 to 1996.
The CDC also attributed the drop to a sharp increase in cigarette taxes. In 1994, Arizona voters raised the tax from 18 cents to 58 cents per pack. About one-quarter of the money goes to anti-smoking programs.
"If every state implemented programs like those in Arizona, we could expect to cut the adult smoking rate in half during the next decade," said Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, CDC director. "These findings are a positive sign that education and prevention programs do work."
In 1996, Arizona health officials started a media campaign aimed at young people that labeled smoking a "tumor-causing, teeth-staining, smelly, puking habit." The campaign won numerous national and state awards.
Later TV ads featured everything from a dog urinating on a cigarette to a teen-age girl accidentally drinking chewing tobacco spit into a cup.
"Those ads are gross and it makes me think smoking isn't for me," said Andre Filipovic, a 15-year-old student at Phoenix's Central High School.