‘My name is Amanda, and I smoked while I was pregnant…’

The ads have been visceral and jarring: A North Carolina woman, diagnosed with oral and throat cancer, warning about the consequences of smoking through the gravelly sound of her artificial voice box. An Army vet and long-time smoker whose diseased lungs make him wonder whether he will be around to see his grandchildren grow up. A 31-year-old man who had his legs amputated due to Buerger’s disease, a disorder closely linked to tobacco use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, which began in 2012 with money from the Affordable Care Act, is aimed at getting current smokers to quit by showing the potentially deadly path they are on. By the agency’s account, the ads have prompted more than 1.5 million Americans to try to kick their tobacco habits, with an estimated 100,000 people expected to stop permanently.

Given that apparent success, the agency is launching another round of ads intended to highlight additional tobacco-related conditions, from gum disease to lung cancer. The latest installment in the CDC’s campaign arrives Tuesday, and it includes one of the most sobering ads yet.

“My name is Amanda, and I smoked while I was pregnant,” the spot begins. Amanda Brenden was newly engaged, in college and unexpectedly pregnant. She tried to kick her pack-a-day habit but kept smoking during her pregnancy. The result: Her daughter was born two months premature, weighed three pounds and spent her first days in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“I wasn’t able to hold her. She couldn’t suck or swallow, so she had a feeding tube in her nose,” Brenden, of Eau Claire, Wis., recounted in an interview. “I just want other women to know that they can quit, especially women who are smoking during pregnancy. They can quit and avoid walking down the painful path of having a baby prematurely.”

Brenden has quit smoking, but too late to prevent the health problems that still affect her otherwise healthy daughter, now 7.

“My family’s whole life really revolves around what triggers an asthma attack for her,” she said. “We really have to plan our days around possible asthma flare ups.”

According to the CDC, the new ads will begin running July 7 in a wide range of outlets, including television, radio and print, as well as on billboards and in movie theaters. The campaign will last roughly two months and, combined with a similar effort earlier this year, cost an estimated $60 million.

Officials said the latest campaign also will focus on reaching lower income groups, who tend to have among the highest smoking rates. , Spanish-language ads will run on Hispanic television stations and Asian-language print ads will run in cities that are home to large Asian populations.

The campaign also features one last ad from Terrie Hall, the North Carolina woman and outspoken anti-tobacco advocate who became a centerpiece of the CDC’s initial anti-smoking campaign. After battling smoking-related cancers for years, Hall died in September 2013. She was 53.

A new advertisement from the Centers for Disease Control features Terrie, who shares smoking's painful impact on her life. (Centers for Disease Control)
Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on food and drug issues.
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