The Food and Drug Administration is launching its largest effort yet to curb tobacco use among teens with a campaign that portrays cigarettes as something that can make you look uncool or ugly.
The $115 million media campaign is prompted by the FDA’s new authority to regulate tobacco, granted by law in 2009.
According to the FDA, roughly 10 million American teens are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes, and nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by the time they reach 18.
The ads are an attempt to stop the pipeline of young smokers from becoming lifelong tobacco customers. They are crafted to try and reach teens through subjects that matter to them.
“We have to be smart about how we talk to children about a behavior like experimenting with tobacco products. So instead of sounding like yet another authority figure citing statistics or telling teens not to do something because it is bad for them, we dedicated significant time and research into creating something that will catch their attention,” said agency commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
Studies show teens are often more worried about their appearance and having control of situations, so the ads highlight those issues rather than a long-term risk of cancer.
One ad graphically depicts tooth loss and skin damage to demonstrate what can happen to smokers. Another challenges teens by portraying addiction as a loss of control.
The ads will run in more than 200 markets for a year, beginning Feb. 11. The campaign will include spots on MTV and in Teen Vogue and through social media.
“And that’s only the beginning: subsequent youth tobacco prevention campaigns will target other audiences, including multicultural, rural, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths,” Hamburg said of the agency’s plans.
Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA, which were allowed under the 2009 legislation.
The ads will serve as counter to the $8.8 billion tobacco companies spend each year “to market deadly and addictive products, often in ways that appeal to kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The tobacco companies spend more on marketing every five days than the FDA will spend in an entire year on its new campaign.”
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