FDA launches first anti-smoking ads for teens

Federal health regulators are launching their first-ever campaign to prevent and reduce smoking specifically among teenagers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) described the $115 million media campaign Tuesday as a way to reach young people before tobacco addiction takes hold.

ADVERTISEMENT
"We know that early intervention is critical, with almost nine out of every ten regular adult smokers picking up their first cigarette by age 18," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg in a statement.

The campaign — titled "The Real Cost" — will involve paid TV, radio, print and Internet advertisements paid for by user fees collected by the tobacco industry. Regulators said their goal is to reach 9 million young people up to 60 times per year.

The advertisements, created with global advertising agency Draftfcb, seek to reach at-risk teens by focusing on issues of concern to them.

Rather than highlighting health risks that are abstract to younger people, such as lung cancer, the advertisements will focus on changes in physical appearance that result from cigarettes, such as tooth loss and skin damage.

Public health groups welcomed this approach and praised the effort as long overdue.

“We need a fresh campaign, based on the best evidence about communicating with teens in their own space and on their own terms,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President James M. Perrin in a statement. “We need to arm them with the information they need to stay tobacco-free."