A new “graphic and arresting” stop smoking TV advertising campaign is being launched by the Department of Health, after new research reveals every 15 cigarettes causes a gene mutation that can lead to cancer.
The advert features “horribly realistic” cancerous tumors growing out of a cigarette as it is smoked in a bid to prompt people to give up the habit in time for the New Year.
It is hoped around 375,000 smokers will make a quit attempt thanks to the adverts.
They are the first ‘shock ads’ of its kind in eight years and come in response to research that shows more than a third of smokers still think the health risks associated with smoking are “greatly exaggerated”.
The £2.7m campaign, which will run for nine weeks, ends by saying: “If you could see the harm cigarettes are doing to you, you would stop.”
Dr Peter Campbell, head of cancer genetics and genomics from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said smokers play “russian roulette” with their health every time they light up.
“There are only a certain number of types of mutations that can cause cancer and each time a person smokes, they spin the dial on the piston as to where the gene mutation will land,” he said.
“You would probably need about five mutations to trigger a tumor. 15 cigarettes alone will not cause cancer but if you spin the dial enough times, it will happen.”
The DH will monitor how many smokers give up or access stop smoking services during the TV campaign.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said it is “absolutely shocking” that not all smokers understand the heath risks associated with smoking.
Despite an overall fall in the number of smokers, there are still more than eight million in England alone costing the NHS £2.7bn a year.
Davies claimed there has recently been a reduction in the number of people who intend to kick the smoking habit as well as actual attempts to give up.
“The adverts include a tough message about the dangers of smoking for a new generation of smokers – many of whom will not have seen such a hard hitting message,” she said.
Since the last ‘shocking’ stop smoking TV advertising campaign, which featured ‘fatty cigarettes’ in 2004, more than three million people are estimated to have been admitted to hospital with a smoking related disease – more than 1,000 people each day and more than 570,000 are estimated to have died because of a smoking related condition – 195 people a day.