While the name may not spark a memory for most of us, the images created by the CDC in their “Tips From Smokers” campaign sure do. Terrie Hall was the star of these commercials. Hall died yesterday morning after her long battle with cancer. She was only 53 years old.
Hall started smoking when she was a teenage cheerleader. Like many teens, Hall found smoking to be alluring due to being such a social lubricant (especially seeing as smoking has always been popular amongst cheerleaders because it is an appetite suppressant). By age 25, Hall was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes per day. This habit quickly caught up with Hall, and in 2001 – at age 40 – Hall was diagnosed with oral cancer.
And, like many smokers, Hall didn’t let cancer slow her habit: “I didn’t think I had to quit. The radiation was getting rid of the cancer, so I could still smoke.” Unfortunately for Hall, the radiation was not removing the cancer faster than it was forming elsewhere. Later in 2001, Hall was diagnosed with throat cancer, which resulted in the need to remove her larynx.
Hall’s voice, as a result of that surgery, only added to the impact her commercials made when the CDC campaign began in March 2012. The commercial which received the most views has definitely impacted everyone who has watched TV in the past year, essentially resulting in a collective “Ewwwwww”. While this may seem insulting, this is exactly the response the CDC and Hall hope to garner with their campaign.
The “Tips From Smokers” campaign was extremely effective during its initial campaign. When compared to the same 12-week window in which the campaign did not exist in 2011, the CDC saw the volume of callers to 1-800-QUIT-NOW double, while visitors to the site smokefree.gov increased by a factor of five. The overall result of the campaign saw 1.6 million people attempt to quit smoking, with a little over 100,000 of those successfully quitting.
Director of the CDC Dr. Tom Friedman stated that “She was a public health hero. She may well have saved more lives than most doctors do.” While the commercials featuring Hall evoked a visceral reaction from most viewers (myself included), the impact of the campaign is well-worth a few seconds of cringing.
Image via YouTube