The New York City Health Department is trying a new technique to get smokers to quit -- they're handing out matchbooks with pictures of the effects of smoking.
The “Gum Disease” version shows decayed teeth, yellowed and blackened and other matchbooks show large, painful tumors and smoke-ravaged lungs. The matchbooks are being handed out at 132 stores which sell cigarettes in the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and North and Central Brooklyn.
The "Eating You Alive" campaign was inspired by countries were cigarette packs carry graphic warnings. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Comissioner, says the matchbooks show the realities of smoking.
"Many countries put these images right on the cigarette pack, where they belong. While the US hasn’t done this yet – we are putting these images where New Yorkers buy cigarettes, just before they light up, in the hope they’ll think twice about the decision to continue smoking."
Cigarettes started to carry health warnings in 1966 after the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health. The four current warnings have not been updated since 1984.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New York City. In 2005, 4,800 men and 3,300 women died from smoking. Over 17% of adults in New York City say they smoke on a regular basis.