FDA Launches Campaign to Reduce Youth Tobacco Use

Multimedia platform focuses on independence, health, menthol cigarettes

Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration launched its first public-education campaign to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use on Tuesday.

“Never before has the agency embarked on an education campaign of this nature and magnitude, wrote Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs, in an FDA Voice blog post. “It’s the ultimate synergy of public health and regulation.”

The campaign, the first of five distinct youth-focused efforts the FDA is developing, is dubbed “The Real Cost.” With it, the FDA seeks to reduce the number of youth smokers in the United States over the next few years.

“Those of us in the public health and medical communities know all too well the startling statistics surrounding teen tobacco use, especially smoking, and want to do all we can to prevent young people from becoming addicted,” Hamburg wrote. “There are more than 10 million youths ages 12 to 17 who are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes.”

The FDA’s new multimedia campaign “is designed around visually compelling and personally relevant messages that will appeal to, and resonate with, teens at-risk for smoking.”

Through television, radio, social media and outlets associated with teenagers’ interests—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.

“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.
  • 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 ads will run nationwide across multiple platforms beginning Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Subsequent youth-tobacco-prevention campaigns will target other audiences, including multicultural, rural, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths.

Click here to read the full text of Hamburg’s blog post.

Steve Holtz, CSP/Winsight By Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News
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