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Will new anti-smoking ads help smokers quit?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has once again released a batch of graphic anti-smoking ads, aimed at motivating smokers to quit by showing the horrible health effects of the nasty habit. But, in my opinion, the campaign emphasizes an oversimplified message: that to quit, all smokers need is a little fear.

For the next 12 weeks, the grisly ads will run as public service announcements on TV and in movie theaters, magazines, and newspapers; all contain real people with smoking-related health problems such as throat cancer that destroyed the larynx, diabetes that led to a leg amputation, and a life-threatening asthma attack in a teen exposed to second-hand smoke.

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There’s “very strong scientific evidence” that such public awareness tactics have led to an increase in the number of smokers who successfully quit, said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden in a press briefing last Thursday.

But some people appear to have a genetic susceptibility to becoming heavy smokers. A study published last Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry indicates that certain genetic mutations help predict which teens will be more likely to convert to daily smokers after experimenting with cigarettes and then become heavy smokers as adults. Those teens with the high-risk mutations — who were followed for four decades — were more likely to use smoking to cope with stress and fail in their attempts to quit.

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