In West LA, close to the 405 freeway on Santa Monica Boulevard, a giant billboard enumerates the number of smoking deaths in the US.
A billboard to fight against tobacco
It is a gigantic black billboard with big white letters that read ‘Smoking Deaths This Year’. Under the letters is a digital meter that increases by one almost every minute. It was set up by William Bloomfield in 1987. A former smoker himself, he wanted people to know the death toll caused by tobacco.
Every year, a few minutes before midnight on December 31st, a small crowd gathers to observe the reset of the counter. One by one, the numbers turn to 0. And the people clap and cheer for a minute or so before the counter starts counting again.
Stop smoking programs are essential in the US. Whether through electronic cigarettes but also through initiatives such as this giant billboard. Indeed, tobacco products kills almost 500 000 people every year in the US.