NATO Files Complaint Over FDA's TV Commercials

Requests withdrawal of "The Real Cost" ads

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

The FDA's "Real Truth" Ad

The FDA's "Real Truth" ad

MINNEAPOLIS -- NATO has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Ombudsman to seek the removal of two television commercials produced for the FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign from any further airing on television and also from the YouTube website. These two commercials titled “Your Teeth/Your Teeth Menthol” and “Your Skin/Your Skin Menthol” inaccurately and falsely depict convenience store clerks accepting body parts from a young male and a young female as part payment for a pack of cigarettes.

A federal ombudsman works to resolve complaints and disputes between a federal agency and the industry that is regulated by that agency. On Feb 7, 2014, NATO sent the FDA a letter requesting that the agency cease airing these two commercials and remove the commercials from YouTube. The FDA responded to NATO in a letter dated Feb 11, 2014 that the portrayal of retail clerks in the two commercials is “completely incidental to the intention of the ads.” NATO strongly disagrees with this characterization of the retail store clerk role in the commercials and claims that the FDA has crossed an ethical line where the truth and compliance with the FDA’s own federal tobacco regulations are disregarded by the FDA in an attempt to convey a message to youth about the health implications of cigarette smoking.

NATO’s letter to the FDA Ombudsman contains a list of the four major concerns that the association has with the television commercials, which are as follows:

  1. The commercials are an inaccurate and false depiction of a retail sale of cigarettes because the store clerks do not check the photo ID of the young male and young female and accept an extracted molar from the young male and facial skin from the young female as “currency” to pay for a pack of cigarettes.
  2. The retail store clerks in the commercials are depicted as willing participants in selling cigarettes to youth.
  3. The FDA has disregarded the truth and its own federal tobacco regulations that a retailer must comply with when selling cigarettes.
  4. The commercials do not conform to the FDA’s own retail training videos which show how retailers must request photo identification of customers that are under the age of 27, examining the photo identification, and checking the customer’s birthdate before selling cigarettes to the customer.

NATO is waiting for a response from the FDA Ombudsman regarding this official complaint.