The government is looking to capitalise on the British penchant for making health-related New Year resolutions with a hard-hitting £3m ad campaign designed to shock smokers into quitting.
The Department of Health's campaign, developed by agency Dare, marks a return to the shock advertising tactics employed eight years ago to directly target smokers.
The campaign has been developed on the back of research which shoes that more than a third of smokers still believe that the health risks associated with smoking are "greatly exaggerated".
In the campaign, which will run on TV, posters and billboards and online, a cigarette a smoker is inhaling is seen transformed into a cancerous looking growth.
"It is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the serious health harms associated with smoking," says Professor Dame Sally Davies.
In recent years the DoH has focused on ad campaigns showing what the secondary damage of smoking is – to children, friends and family of smokers – but it has been eight years since advertising has directly targeted smokers themselves.
The new campaign will run for nine weeks, part of an estimated £10m annual ad spend by the DoH.
Ad agency Dare recently launched a stop smoking initiative in October – called Stoptober – which saw over 270,000 people signing up to quit.
Research has shown that if smokers can be made to stop for a month they have up to five times more chance of successfully giving up for good.
"Hard-hitting campaigns illustrate the damage caused by smoking and this can encourage people to quit or may even stop them from starting in the first place," said Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.
The DoH estimates there are 8 million smokers in England.
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