The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the launch of a national public education campaign to prevent youth tobacco use and reduce the number of kids ages 12 to 17 who become regular smokers. “The Real Cost” campaign is the FDA’s first of several planned tobacco education campaigns using the new authority granted under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009.
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year. Each day, more than 3,200 youth under age 18 in the United States try their first cigarette and more than 700 kids under age 18 become daily smokers.
As part of Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ call to make the next generation tobacco free, “The Real Cost” campaign targets the 10 million young people ages 12-17 who have never smoked a cigarette but are open to it and youth who are already experimenting with cigarettes and are at risk of becoming regular smokers.
“We know that early intervention is critical, with almost nine out of every ten regular adult smokers picking up their first cigarette by age 18,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Today marks a historic moment as we launch the FDA’s first-ever national education campaign to prevent tobacco use among our nation’s youth, and we bring to life the real costs that are of the most concern to young people.”
“The Real Cost” campaign uses a comprehensive multimedia approach, compelling facts and vivid imagery designed to change beliefs and behaviors over time. The ads were developed to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use and to encourage them to be tobacco-free. The campaign uses several social media platforms to create space for teens to engage in peer-to-peer conversations about the issue in ways that are authentic to who they are.
Supported by the best available science, “The Real Cost” campaign will be evaluated to measure its effectiveness over time. It is the first of several campaigns that the FDA will launch over the next few years. Subsequent campaigns will target additional discrete audiences, including multicultural youth, rural youth, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
“The FDA has collaborated with some of the brightest and most creative minds to develop a multimedia initiative designed to make the target audience acutely aware of the risk from every cigarette by highlighting consequences that young people are really concerned about,” said Mitchell Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
One approach in “The Real Cost” campaign dramatizes the health consequences of smoking in a meaningful way by graphically depicting health consequences such as tooth loss and skin damage to demonstrate that every cigarette comes with a “cost” that is more than just financial. Another approach reframes addiction to cigarettes as a loss of control to disrupt the beliefs of youth who currently think they will not get addicted or feel they can quit at any time.
In addition, some ads highlight the fact that menthol cigarettes cause the same health consequences as regular cigarettes, as youth are more likely to report smoking menthol cigarettes.
“The Real Cost” campaign, created with award-winning global marketing communication agency Draftfcb, uses a comprehensive multimedia approach including television, radio, print, online and out-of-home advertising. Ads will run in more than 200 markets throughout the United States for at least 12 months. The $115 million campaign is funded by industry user fees and launches nationwide on Feb. 11. The Tobacco Control Act authorized the FDA to collect tobacco user fees from manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to implement the law.