“The Real Cost” Of Smoking Is Only Skin Deep In New Anti-Smoking Campaign Aimed At Teens

real costA case of marketing brilliance or unfair stereotyping? That’s the question we have after the Food and Drug Administration announced the first anti-smoking campaign aimed at teens. The ads don’t highlight the serious health risks of smoking, such as emphysema or lung cancer, instead they depict yellow teeth and wrinkles.

On Tuesday the FDA announced a $115 million multimedia education campaign called “The Real Deal” that will show youth, ages 12 to 17, the true costs and health consequences of smoking by focusing on what really matters to them – their outward appearance, the Associated Press reports.

The advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the United States beginning Feb. 11. The campaign, which is expected to last one year, will include ads on networks with high teen viewership, such as MTV, and in magazines, like Teen Vogue, as well as, on social media.

Officials with the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products say most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use – it’s still the leading preventable cause of death – but they don’t believe the long-term consequences will apply to them.

So showing a model with a few wrinkles around her lips, but an otherwise flawless appearance is going to stop teens from smoking?

The FDA appears to think so, calling the campaign a “compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way” of reaching teens.

In one television advertisement a teen tries to purchase cigarettes at a convenience store. When he’s told the pack costs more than he has, he uses a pair of pliers to pull out a tooth in order to pay.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign the FDA will follow 8,000 people, ages 11 to 16, for two years to assess their tobacco related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. The FDA aims to reduce the number of youth smokers by at least 300,000 in three years.

“The Real Deal” is part of the FDA’s plan to spend about $600 million over five years on campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco. The bill for the campaigns are being footed by Tobacco companies through fees charged by the FDA.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice reached a deal with tobacco companies on a campaign of “corrective statements”, in which the companies own up to hiding the dangers of smoking from consumers.

FDA launching anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth [Philly.com]