The truth can hurt, but that doesn’t mean we should shield people from it. A recent ad campaign about the awful realities of smoking was more truthful than any ad has been before. And as a result, it may have been the most effective anti-smoking campaign ever.

Wendy Koch of USA Today reported about the recent response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) anti-smoking commercials. The shocking ads showed real people and their real ailments caused by smoking. Some smokers showed their paralysis, some their lung removals, and others amputation of limbs.

One commercial shows a woman named Terrie as she gets ready for the day. She’s seen putting in her dentures, putting on a wig, and then a hands-free electro-larynx device so that she can speak. Her smoking lead to all these issues, not to mention the giant hole in her throat, her deformed face, and her broken speech that’s barely decipherable. The whole commercial lasts 30 seconds and is nearly too much to take.

The campaign set out to get 500,000 people to attempt quitting and to get 50,000 to quit for good. The ads are so brutally honest they may have worked. The CDC is reporting that since the ads debuted the national toll-free quit line, 800-QUIT-NOW, has more than doubled its volume and the website,, has tripled its traffic.

It’s too early to tell how many of the inquiries lead to people quitting for good, but many testimonies are coming forward of people describing how the ads were so alarming and harsh that they quit cold turkey.

The ads are harsh, but so is the reality of how smoking will destroy your body.

I was very disturbed when I watched Terrie cover up the hole in her throat. But that’s the point, right? Smoking is awful for the body. The ill effects go way beyond a diagnosis of cancer. One who has to live with the fallout from smoking would probably agree. Their reality is far, far away from the sunny smoking ads from the 70s and 80s. I’m glad they’re showing these ads and hopefully their impact will run deep.

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