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FDA Targets Teens In First Anti-Smoking Campaign

Image: Undated handoput image shows an anti-smoking poster issued by the U.S. FDA
The Food and Drug Administration has launched an anti-tobacco campaign targeting the 10 million people aged 12 to 17 who are open to trying cigarettes. FDA via Reuters

They’re not scared of lung cancer and they can’t imagine ever developing heart disease. So the Food and Drug Administration is trying to get at what might really scare teenagers in its first campaign against smoking: looking ugly and stupid.

The $115 million “Real Cost” campaign uses a little humor and a few scare tactics to discourage teens from ever starting to smoke.

Advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least one year beginning Feb. 11. The campaign will include ads on TV stations such as MTV and print spots in magazines like Teen Vogue. It also will use social media.

Image: FDA advertizing.
This image provided by the Food and Drug Administration shows the federal agency's new ad campaign, “The Real Cost. FDA via AP

According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by age 18. Nearly 700 youth take up smoking every day.

Two of the TV ads show teens walking into a corner store to buy cigarettes. When the cashier tells them it's going to cost them more than they have, the teens proceed to tear off a piece of their skin and use pliers to pull out a tooth in order to pay for their cigarettes. Other ads portray cigarettes as a man dressed in a dirty white shirt and khaki pants bullying teens and another shows teeth being destroyed by a ray gun shooting cigarettes.

The FDA is evaluating the impact of the campaign by following 8,000 people between the ages of 11 and 16 for two years to assess changes in tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Future campaigns will target young adults and people who influence teens, including parents, family members and peers. Other audiences of special interest include minorities, gays, people with disabilities, the military, pregnant women, people living in rural areas, and low-income people.

Image: FDA advertizing.
This image provided by the Food and Drug Administration shows the federal agency's new ad campaign. FDA via AP