The ads feature sad, real-life stories: There is Terrie, a North Carolina woman who lost her voicebox. Bill, a diabetic smoker from Michigan who lost his leg. And Aden, a 7-year-old boy from New York, who has asthma attacks from secondhand smoke.
"Most smokers want to quit. These ads encourage them to try," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC campaign cost $48 million and includes TV, radio and online spots as well as print ads and billboards.
The spending comes as the agency is facing a tough budget squeeze, but officials say the ads should more than pay for themselves by averting future medical costs to society. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It's responsible for the majority of the nation's lung cancer deaths and is a deadly factor in heart attacks and a variety of other illnesses.
Last year's similar $54 million campaign was the agency's first and largest national advertising effort. The government deemed it a success: That campaign triggered an increase of 200,000 calls to quit lines. The CDC believes that likely prompted tens of thousands of smokers to quit based on calculations that a certain percentage of callers do actually stop.
Like last year, the current 16-week campaign spotlights real people who were hurt and disfigured by smoking. Terrie Hall, a 52-year-old throat cancer survivor makes a repeat performance. She had her voice box removed about a dozen years ago.
In last year's ad there's a photo of her as a youthful high school cheerleader. Then she is seen more recently putting on a wig, inserting false teeth and covering the hole in her neck with a scarf. It was, by far, the campaign's most popular spot, as judged by YouTube viewings and Web clicks.
In a new ad, Hall addresses the camera, speaking with the buzzing sound of her electrolarynx. She advises smokers to make a video of themselves now, reading a children's book or singing a lullaby. "I wish I had. The only voice my grandson's ever heard is this one," her electric voice growls.
One difference from last year: The new campaign tilts more toward the impact smokers have on others. One ad features a Kentucky high school student who suffers asthma attacks from being around cigarette smoke. Another has a Louisiana woman who was 16 when her mother died from smoking-related causes.
The return of the campaign is already being applauded by some anti-smoking advocates, who say tobacco companies spend more on tobacco product promotion in a week than the CDC spends in a year.
After decades of decline, the adult smoking rate has stalled at roughly 20 percent in recent years. Advocates say the campaign provides a necessary jolt to a weary public that has been listening to government warnings about the dangers of smoking for nearly 50 years.
"There is an urgent need to continue this campaign," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.
It would seem like a bad time for the CDC to be buying air time - the agency is facing roughly $300 million in budget cuts as part of the government's sequestration cuts in federal spending. However, the ad money comes not from the CDC's regular budget but from a special $1 billion public health fund set up years ago through the Affordable Care Act. The fund has set aside more than $80 million for CDC smoking prevention work.
Frieden argues that the ads are extremely cost-effective - spending about $50 million a year to save potentially tens of thousands of lives.
"We're trying to figure out how to have more impact with less resources," he said.
The ads direct people to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. PlowShare Group, of Stamford, Conn., is again the advertising company that put the ads together. ---
By DAVID CRARY
NEW YORK (AP) - However the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage, the issue seems certain to divide Americans and the states for years to come.
After considering two cases involving gay couples' rights this week, the justices left open multiple options for rulings expected in June. But they signaled there was no prospect of imposing a 50-state solution at this stage.
With nine states allowing same-sex marriages and other states banning them, that means a longer spell with a patchwork marriage-rights map - and no early end to bruising battles in the courts, legislatures and at the ballot box.
Opponents of same-sex marriage seem resigned to a divided nation where the debate will continue to splinter families, communities, churches.
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe a nationwide victory is inevitable, though perhaps not imminent.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday due to his recurring lung infection, the South African President's office today.
"Doctors are attending to him, ensuring that he has the best possible expert medical treatment and comfort," the government's statement said.
Mandela, 94, spent 18 days in the hospital in December for a lung infection and gallstones.
"We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts. We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recovery," South African President Jacob Zuma said in the statement.
The anti-Apartheid activist was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on March 10 for routine medical tests and to "manage existing conditions in line with his age," a spokesman for the South African President's office said.
Despite rare public appearances, Mandela, who is credited with changing race relations in South Africa, remains hugely popular in the country.
In November 2012, banknotes featuring Mandela's image were printed and entered into circulation in South Africa.
After enduring nearly three decades of prison, much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry, Mandela emerged as a gentle leader who was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in ending apartheid without violence, and later became a global statesman who inspired millions people around the world.