New ads to target passive smoking
Minnesotans are about to get peppered with clever messages about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
The $5.5 million advertising campaign, sponsored by the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, is funded by money from the state's tobacco settlement. The partnership's goal is to raise awareness about the health risks associated with secondhand smoke.
``The hope is to get people to stop and think,'' said Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the partnership's board and director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Hurt said that secondhand smoke kills more Americans annually than murder, drugs and AIDS combined, yet a recent survey showed that most Minnesotans don't realize how serious secondhand smoke is.
``More than 50,000 Americans die of secondhand smoke each year,'' he said. ``Think of that. That's an incredible number. It's not just a nuisance; it's a serious health problem,''
The campaign, which began with a spot on Thursday night's episode of the television show ``Friends,'' places strong emphasis on the 15 million American children who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
In one particularly powerful ad, a young mother carefully secures her infant daughter into a fancy car seat, then climbs behind the wheel, closes the door, lights up a cigarette, exhales, adjusts the rearview mirror so she can see the toddler and, as smoke swirls toward the infant's face, says, ``There, is my princess safe back there?''
Children who live in homes where the parents smoke inhale the equivalent of 102 packs of cigarettes by age 5, Hurt said. When compared to children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke, they have 70 percent more respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, are hospitalized more often, miss more school and are four times more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Studies also show that a nonsmoker who spends two hours in a room where someone is smoking inhales the equivalent of four cigarettes, 200 poisons and 43 known carcinogens, Hurt said. For every eight smokers who die from smoking, one nonsmoker dies from secondhand smoke, he added.
By the time the campaign ends in 18 months, about 99 percent of all Minnesotans will have seen and heard the messages. Hurt and his colleagues hope the educational campaign lays the foundation for an effort to get smoking banned in all public buildings in the state.
About half of the money will be spent on TV ads, with the other half divided among print, radio, outdoor, bus and bus shelter ads.
Also, the partnership is introducing the state's first three-dimensional ad designed for a bus shelter. It features a high chair with a two-foot high stack of cigarettes sitting ominously on the tray. One of the ads will be on the bus shelter near the Lawson building in downtown St. Paul and the other on Hennepin Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets in downtown Minneapolis.
A second phase of the campaign, which begins in June, will focus on helping smokers quit and keeping those who don't from starting.
The Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco was endowed with $202 million over a 25-year period under the state's $6.1 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998. The money is used to finance anti-smoking research and programs to help Minnesotans kick the habit.