A graphic new quit smoking campaign will hit screens tonight, explaining how smoking can lead to a stroke.
Due to the explicit nature of the surgical procedure depicted the campaign has an M rating, making it the first quit smoking message televised in Australia that cannot be shown at specific times due to its confronting nature.
Acting Director of Quit, Ms Suzie Stillman, was unapologetic about the uncompromising scenes shown in the campaign describing it as reality television at its most powerful.
"There is a desperate need to convey to smokers the potentially devastating health consequences of tobacco use, and we shouldn't sanitise this message."
"People who smoke are about twice as likely to have a stroke than someone who has never smoked, yet fewer than one in ten smokers are able to identify smoking as a cause of stroke."
"This campaign might not be easy to watch but the health effects of smoking are rarely pretty. This is an accurate portrayal of one of the many disturbing health consequences of smoking, and smokers are entitled to know the truth."
Mr Mark Westcott, a Vascular surgeon at St. Vincent's who features in the advertisement, said the surgical procedure featured in the campaign is a carotid endarterectomy, which is undertaken to reduce the risk of stroke.
"Someone would need to have this type of surgery if they have been found to have a narrowing or blockage in the artery in their neck. The operation clears out blockages from the artery in the neck that might otherwise break off and lodge in the brain."
"Over 70% of patients who have had this operation at St.Vincent's Hospital in the five years between 2002 and 2006 were current or former smokers - and in the past two years all of the patients under 50 years of age were smokers."
"Smoking doubles the risk of most arterial disease and causes patients to present earlier in life, sometimes decades earlier. Smoking also trebles the risk of complications following vascular surgery."
Mr Westcott said that a patient quitting smoking might mean that surgery is no longer required and reduces the risk of stroke, amputation and aneurysm rupture.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Maxine Morand, said the stroke campaign is funded through the Bracks Government's $1.87 million dollar contribution to Quit Victoria this year to develop a range of social marketing campaigns to increase community awareness of the dangers associated with tobacco use.
"The Quit campaign provides a very effective and strong message about the link between smoking and stroke," Ms Morand said.
"Awareness of the link between smoking and stroke gives smokers another reason to think twice about lighting up and hopefully leads them to quit smoking."
Ms Morand said the launch on World No Tobacco Day is particularly relevant with its theme of smokefree environments, given pubs and clubs in Victoria are to go smokefree in a month.
The concept for the media campaign was tested with smokers of all ages and from different backgrounds. These group discussions indicated that participants had only limited knowledge about stroke, especially in terms of the cause and development, and especially amongst the younger smokers.
Research shows that mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to reduce smoking at a population level, especially when they offer smokers services and resources to help them quit.
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