FDA targets youth in latest tobacco prevention program

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday unveiled its first youth tobacco prevention program, “The Real Cost,” which will target at-risk youth ages 12 to 17 years who are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes. About 10 million youth in the United States currently fall into this category.

The campaign launches nationally Feb. 11. 

The objective of the campaign is to educate these at-risk youth about the harmful effects of tobacco use with the goal of reducing initiation rates among youth who are open to smoking and reducing the number of youth already experimenting with cigarettes that progress to regular use. 

Through “The Real Cost” campaign, FDA seeks to reduce the number of youth who experiment with tobacco use to ultimately reduce the number of future tobacco users and thereby diminish the harmful consequences tobacco use has on the health of the country. The campaign was developed using evidence-based best practices and multiple phases of research to identify promising messages. The campaign is specifically designed to affect at-risk youth 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. Campaign messages are intended to make the target audience acutely aware of the risk from every cigarette by highlighting consequences that youth are concerned about, such as loss of control due to addiction and health effects like tooth loss and skin damage. 

Additionally, the campaign will include messages that specifically address the health consequences of menthol cigarettes as youth are more likely to report smoking menthol cigarettes.

Advertising will focus on a multi-channel approach that surrounds teens with the “The Real Cost” message. The campaign includes traditional broadcast media such as television and radio ads, as well as advertising through a mix of other multimedia channels including the web, cinema, print publications and out-of-home advertising (e.g., bus shelters). The campaign seeks to maximize message impact by utilizing each channel’s strengths. The campaign will air in more than 200 markets across the country for at least one year.

A critical factor in reducing youth tobacco use is to produce and maintain effective levels of campaign awareness within the target population, the agency noted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that new tobacco prevention campaigns that reach 75% to 85% of the target audience within one year can expect to produce attitude and behavior change within 2 years if the time in market is adequately sustained.

The campaign will reach 90% of the target audience 15 times a quarter for a total reach and frequency of more than 9 million youth 60 times a year, the FDA stated. 




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