“Cigarettes are bullies. Don’t let tobacco control you.”
That’s the message from the Food and Drug Administration’s new anti-smoking campaign, “The Real Cost,” which is aimed at teens and pre-teens.
The FDA says its goal is to reduce the number of the number of future smokers, thereby reducing the harmful effects that tobacco use has on “the health of our country.”
The campaign includes a video showing a teenager being slammed against school lockers, then dragged down the hall by a miniature “bully.” (The message: Tobacco addiction will dominate you.)
Other videos show a teenage boy pulling out his teeth with pliers to pay for a pack of cigarettes (a reference to the tooth and gum damage caused by cigarettes); and a teenage girl peeling the skin off her face to show that smoking causes wrinkles and premature aging.
The FDA says the campaign is specifically designed to reach “at-risk youth” aged 12-17, who experiment with cigarettes but do not consider themselves smokers, do not believe they will become addicted smokers, and are not particularly interested in the topic of tobacco.”
The agency even offers an example of its target audience — a fictional teen named “Pete,” whom it describes as follows:
Living a chaotic life, Pete (aged 12–17) struggles with his social and economic situation both at home (living in suburban or rural areas with unmarried parents, who use tobacco at home) and at school (poor school environment and low academic achievement). His stress about his personal situation, coupled with poor coping skills and a pessimistic outlook on life, make Pete a troubled kid. Pete finds it hard to regulate his mood and is a sensation-seeking risk taker. Pete smokes occasionally (<100 cigarettes, lifetime) as do his friends.
“The Real Cost” campaign is launching nationally on February 11, 2014 across multiple media platforms, including TV, radio, print and online. The campaign will continue to air in more than 200 markets across the country for at least one year.
This is the FDA’s first youth tobacco prevention campaign, and it aims to reduce the number of young cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 in three years.
The Associated Press reported that tobacco companies are paying for this and other anti-smoking campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.