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FDA Public Education Campaign Aims to Prevent/Reduce Youth Tobacco Use

This February FDA launches something truly unique: its first public education campaign to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use. Never before has the Agency embarked on an education campaign of this nature and magnitude. The first of five distinct youth-focused efforts FDA has in the works, “The Real Cost” campaign seeks to reduce the number of youth smokers in our country over the next few years.

Did you know? Don't smile, smoking may stain your teeth.

Infographics illustrate the
point that smoking can cause
stained teeth and tooth loss.

Those working in the public health and medical communities know all too well the startling statistics surrounding teen tobacco use, especially smoking, and to prevent young people from becoming addicted. Unfortunately, there are more than 10 million youths ages 12 to 17 who are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes.

Getting the message right to reach teens is critical. 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, FDA dedicated significant time and research into creating something that will catch their attention. The multimedia campaign is designed around visually compelling and personally relevant messages that will appeal to, and resonate with, teens at-risk for smoking.

This campaign is the first time the Department has applied this ‘people first’ approach we’ve taken to mental health, usability, and tobacco to those younger than 18.  Such a target possesses unique challenges for engagement and education.

Through television, radio, social media and outlets associated with their interests, including music, fashion, sports, gaming, and comedy, the campaign seeks to surround at-risk teens with messages that reach them where they are in their daily lives.

Alt Text: ‘Did You Know?’ Campaign ad, reading “New research shows menthols may be even more addictive than other cigarettes.”

Some ads highlight
the fact that menthol
cigarettes cause the
same health consequences
as regular cigarettes, as
youths are more likely to
report smoking menthol
cigarettes than
regular cigarettes.

“The Real Cost” aims to make them acutely aware of the potential risk from every cigarette by highlighting consequences they are concerned about.

One set of creative materials challenges the beliefs of independence-seeking youths who think they will not get addicted or feel they can quit at any time by portraying addiction to cigarettes as a loss of control.

Another approach dramatizes the health consequences of smoking by graphically depicting results like tooth loss and skin damage to demonstrate that every cigarette comes with a “cost” that is more than just financial.

The development of the “The Real Cost” campaign is grounded in research and supported by best marketing practices as well as multiple rounds of testing with our target audience. Ads will run nationwide across multiple platforms beginning February 11.  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.

As FDA takes their mission of protecting kids from tobacco to the next level – by reaching out to them with images and words that speak to them – they’ve embraced the principles of the Digital Strategy. They’ve created a comprehensive campaign around the audience they’re targeting.  The entire campaign is built with a mobile first approach, and social media and shared content serve as the primary means to engage with visitors.

What do you think of the new campaign?

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Your Ideas

Submitted by Carol on
WOW --- Haven't seen a campaign that is so "on target" in a long long time. Excellent.
Submitted by Jacob Anguyo on
we do accepted the condition and how can such project be introduced in Uganda to fight and prevent tobacco users especially youth below the stated age. thanks