Softer sell aimed at smokers
Hey, smokers, we're sorry about trying to bully, ostracize and scare you into quitting tobacco.
To make amends, the state health department is launching a $1.75 million stop-smoking campaign that is devoid of lecturing and is filled with sympathy instead.
It even notes that nonsmokers can be darn judgmental.
The ads feature a man named Chuck who is tired of the disapproving stares and hassles of trying to find a place to light up. He's especially tired of trying so hard to quit and being unable to do so.
The TV, radio and print ads acknowledge that smokers feel backed into a corner and can find it tougher than ever to quit smoking while being told they're weak and undisciplined.
"Can you believe the grief we have to take from people?" Chuck asks in the first ad, which will hit the airways Wednesday. At first, he doesn't want to quit. In a later ad, he tries to quit and fails. By March, however - when the campaign is scheduled to end - he's successful.
The advertisements are sponsored by the State Tobacco Education and Prevention Program and financed by part of Colorado's share of the national tobacco settlement.
Colorado will save several hundred thousand dollars in production costs by using the same "Chuck" campaign from Arizona, said Jeff W. McKenna, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's office on smoking and health.
Monday, workers taking smoking breaks outside downtown Denver office buildings were intrigued by the new campaign.
"It's certainly a more supportive approach," said Craig Glimm. "It's all against the smoker at the end of the day. We're pariahs, lepers. We don't need someone to come up and tell us it's a stupid habit. We know it.
"Granted, we're idiots for starting. But it's harder to quit cigarettes than to quit heroin. I think this is a good idea."
Rick Kitzman, a computer instructor, said the new campaign may help put smokers in a better frame of mind to quit because "nonsmokers can be very judgmental."
But he wonders why more of the state's tobacco settlement money isn't used to help people like him pay the $100 or $200 needed to enroll in a quit-smoking program or get the medications that are supposed to ease withdrawal.
Colorado gets about $100 million a year from tobacco manufacturers as part of the nationwide settlement of a lawsuit charging tobacco executives with lying about nicotine's addictiveness. The state uses 15 percent of that money on cessation, education and prevention programs, and the rest on other health care programs. Colorado doesn't give grants to individuals because research shows a centralized approach with professional counseling gets more bang for the buck, says Jill Conley, STEPP spokeswoman.
Colorado's annual tobacco-related health care costs stand at more than $1 billion, says Karen DeLeeuw, STEPP director.
"We understand that quitting tobacco is not an easy task," she said. "We want smokers and other users of tobacco to know there are services available that can help them quit."
About one in five adult Coloradans smokes, but the rate is higher among young adults 17-25, say health officials.
"If Big Tobacco has taught us anything, it's that they will spare no expense to market their products," DeLeeuw said. "We're taking some of the tobacco companies' best ideas and using them against the barrage of smoking propaganda that permeates the media."
For more information, call the QuitLine at 1-800-639-QUIT or go to www.co.quitnet.com.