The Real Cost

FDA Launches New Anti-Smoking Campaign

The Food and Drug administration is launching a new campaign geared towards teens in hopes of stopping them from smoking and encouraging them to quit. This $115 million multimedia education campaign called «The Real Cost» will use adds depicting yellow teeth, wrinkled skin, and other costs at-risk teenagers face if they smoke cigarettes.

Beginning February 11, advertisements will run in over 200 markets throughout the US for at least one year. Ads will air on TV stations like MTV and be found in magazines such as Teen Vogue. They will also use social media, which today’s youth heavily uses.

«Our kids are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit each day,» said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. «And that’s why we think it’s so important to reach out to them — not to lecture them, not to throw statistics at them — but to reach them in a way that will get them to rethink their relationship with tobacco use.»

Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco «Truth» campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation time in the early 2000s, called the new campaign a «compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way» of grabbing the attention of more than 10 million young people ages 12 to 17 that are open to, or are already experimenting with, cigarettes.

According to the FDA, by age 18 nearly 90 percent of adult smokers had started using cigarettes. Each day, the FDA reports that more than 700 teenagers under 18 become daily smokers. Their hope is that with this new campaign, the number of youth smokers can be reduced by at least 300,000 within three years.

«While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don’t believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them,» said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. «We’ll highlight some of the real costs and health consequences associated with tobacco use by focusing on some of the things that really matter to teens — their outward appearance and having control and independence over their lives.»

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The FDA is evaluating the impact of the campaign by following 8,000 people between the ages of 11 and 16 for two years to assess changes in tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.

The campaign announced Tuesday is the first in a series of campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.

In 2011, the FDA said it planned to spend about $600 million over five years on the campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco. Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.

Future campaigns will target young adults ages 18-24 and people who influence teens, including parents, family members and peers. Other audiences of special interest include minorities, gays, people with disabilities, the military, pregnant women, people living in rural areas, and low-income people.

The Real Cost