(FOX NEWS) -- Graphic advertisements, featuring real people living with the debilitating and disfiguring effects of smoking, are saving lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New research published in The Lancet medical journal suggests the first series of ads in the "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign has encouraged at least 100,000 smokers to successfully quit - twice the number CDC officials had expected.
"We think this is a testament to the incredible power of the real stories that these people told," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "This is exactly what smokers had told us they thought would work the best to support them and motivate them to quit."
The CDC ads, which appeared during the spring of 2012, featured real people living with amputated limbs, breathing through stomas and dealing with other smoking-related health problems.
"Hard-hitting ads work," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The CDC paid approximately $50 million to produce and place the advertisements. It was the first time the federal government funded a nationwide tobacco education ad campaign.
Federal health officials say the campaign is a good investment, because smokers who quit not only increase their life expectancies but reduce their average annual health care expenses.
"The impact is huge, because a smoker costs about $2,000 more (per year) than a non-smoker, and about $1,000 more than an ex-smoker, to care for," Frieden said. "And if you do the math, this program pays for itself in a year or two in reduced health care and societal expenditures."
The CDC has posted the ads online, along with resources for quitting smoking.