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NYC Campaign Targets Parents Who Smoke

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Imagine how your child would feel if they lost you forever. This is the message of a new educational media campaign that the NYC Health Department began airing on television today to get parents who smoke to think twice about the possible consequences of this deadly addiction.

About 400,000 New York City adults who smoke live with a child. Sadly, smoking takes the lives of 8,000 adults each year in the city, many of whom leave children behind. New Yorkers are urged to quit smoking and to call 311 if they need help.

The campaign features a young boy in a train station who has lost his mother. He is terrified and begins to cry. This painful moment shows the viewer how vulnerable a child is when a parent risks their life by continuing to smoke – and how scary the death of a parent would be. “If this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, a voice says, “just imagine if they lost you for life.” The campaign was originally produced in Australia by Quit Victoria, and was adapted by the Health Department to air here in New York City. It will run in English and Spanish on network and cable television through April 15th.

“When parents smoke, they put their child's future in danger,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Health Commissioner for New York City. “Every parent fears dying young and leaving children behind, but parents who smoke are more likely to have this nightmare come true. Smoking can kill you and it can harm your child as well. We urge all New Yorkers to quit smoking – if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your family.”

The Department is simultaneously airing “Cigarettes Are Eating You and Your Kids Alive,” a campaign that portrays the effects of second-hand smoke on children, originally aired in 2008. The graphic images in this commercial remind viewers that secondhand smoke makes children more susceptible to pneumonia or ear infections, and it contributes to lifelong health conditions such as asthma.

Tips on Quitting

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* Set a quit date and mark it on your calendar. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters and cigarettes.

* Visit your doctor for support and advice with your quit plan.

* Make a list of reasons why you want to quit.

* Make a list of family and friends who will support you.

* Avoid triggers, including alcohol, caffeine and other smokers.

* Exercise to relieve stress and improve your mood. Try a brisk 30-minute walk at least four days a week

* Consider using a safe nicotine alternative such as replacement patches, gum or lozenges, all of which can double your chance of quitting.



This spot, the most recent ad in the NY Smokers Quitline campaign, is not only out of line with the other ads, it is atrocious, offensive, and irresponsible. The sound and imagery of crying children and babies is a form of psychological torture and it has absolutely no place in a public educational campaign, no matter how thought-provoking. In addition, young children are not known for their realistic acting capabilities; so one has to wonder what the directors of this commercial did to elicit such a true emotional response from this little boy. I doubt that they simply took a toy away. I am extremely relieved to know that this ad has a short lifespan and will only run through April 15. It saves me the trouble of having to petition the NYS Department of Health and the Roswell Park Cancer Center to have it taken off the air. It is one thing to shock people into rethinking their harmful actions. It is quite another to leave an entire television audience haunted by images of child abuse.