Smoking: Turning Up the Heat

Posted at: 05/13/2013 9:46 PM | Updated at: 05/13/2013 10:42 PM
By: Darren Danielson

Round two of a graphic television campaign is now on the airwaves.  But instead of sex or violence, the message is good health.  Its is a bold, in your face kind of ad campaign, but the effort appears to be working.

The ads are gripping, the stories are tragic and if you're a smoker, downright scary.  But that is precisely their intent. 20-year-old Candace Mead, of Duluth has been trying to quit.

"When you see the amputated leg or the lady with that device in her throat it makes you think.  You don't want that to be you," Mead says.

Like many people who smoke, Candace got hooked as a kid. "It was in school", she said. "One of my best friends started smoking and she was like, oh this is the cool thing to do you know. That right there is why. I started with I was 12 years old, in the 7th grade."

The addiction got hold of Dave Heilman of Duluth too.

"When you're hooked, you're hooked," Heilman said. Heilman has been smoking for over 30 years. "I started when I was 20, maybe 21 years old. I don't know why, I just did," Heilman shrugs.  But he had no idea the incredible grip it would have on him. "It's extremely difficult, it grabs ya. It is the toughest thing I've ever done is quit smoking," he says.

Bridget Benson helps people quit. She says, cigarettes are a very powerful delivery tool. "It gets that nicotine to the brain in 7 seconds.  When you smoke you actually increase the nicotine receptors in your brain."

Benson is a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Essential Health-St. Mary's in Duluth. She says a nicotine addiction involves science and chemistry, not just will power. "The brain gets a very powerful dopamine release and that's what produces those feel good feelings that smokers get. So the more you smoke the more your brain gets used to that firing of the nicotine receptors." She says the more nicotine the brain gets, the more it wants it.

But the new TV ads are intended to reach your brain in a different way. Jill Doberstein of the American Lung Association says, "The tips for smokers campaign was designed to help people, to encourage people who are interested in quitting smoking". She points out that when the ads first appeared, phone calls to quit lines almost doubled.

Smoking in the U.S. has been declining for years. Since 1965 smoking in adults and kids has been cut nearly in half. The decline has slowed down however, and millions still smoke. Presently, about twenty percent of Americans smoke. Bridget Benson says, "That twenty percent has had every reason to quit and they haven't. These people are probably highly addicted and it's very, very difficult for them to quit", she says.

Candace Mead, at six months pregnant, is taking the tough message to heart. She says, "I read a lot of things about breast feeding and how smoking can harm the baby, so I can't do that anymore. I quit on the 25th of March."

Dave Heilman quit too, saying, "I thought to myself, "I'm gonna be 52 years old, I'll have three grandchildren, I'm going to the gym to get in shape, yet I pull out of the parking lot and light up a cigarette.' I thought, 'this is really stupid.' I quit on December 23rd."

As hard as the ads are to watch, smokers say this is exactly the kind of message they need. One ad ends with a former smoker saying, "My tip to everyone is don't believe this can't happen to you, because it can."

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