FDA Teen Anti-Smoking Ads Could Save Black Lives

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Teens think they are too young to worry about lung or heart disease — or even developing wrinkles as a result of smoking — and that is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to grab their attention in its first youth-oriented anti-smoking campaign.

The $115 million “Real Cost” campaign targets at-risk youth aged 12 to 17 who are open to smoking or already experimenting with the potentially deadly habit. About 10 million youth in the United States currently fall in to this category.

The campaign could save lives in the African-American community, where one in five adults smokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking-related illnesses are the leading cause of death in the African-American community, outstripping AIDS, homicide, and drug and alcohol abuse combined, the agency says.

“We know that early intervention is critical, with almost nine out of every 10 regular adult smokers picking up their first cigarette by age 18,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said in a statement released Tuesday. “Today marks a historic moment as we launch the FDA’s first-ever national education campaign to prevent tobacco use among our nation’s youth, and we bring to life the real costs that are of the most concern to young people.”

It is slated to launch nationally on February 11th across multiple media platforms, including television, radio, print, and online. It will air in more than 200 markets across the country for at least one year, the FDA says.

The ads show teens tearing off skin and using pliers to extract a tooth in order to pay for cigarettes. Other ads show cigarettes portrayed as a man dressed in a soiled white shirt and khaki pants while bullying youth and another shows teeth being attacked by a ray gun.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States and is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year, the FDA says.

Each day, more than 3,200 youth under age 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 700 youth under age 18 become daily smokers. The numbers highlight a critical need for stronger, targeted youth tobacco prevention efforts, official say.

“The FDA has collaborated with some of the brightest and most-creative minds to develop a multimedia initiative designed to make the target audience acutely aware of the risk from every cigarette by highlighting consequences that young people are really concerned about,” Mitchell Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in the statement released Tuesday.

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