FDA launches anti-smoking campaign 'The Real Cost' aimed at youth


The $115 million multimedia education campaign is called "The Real Cost," and the federal agency says it is aimed at stopping teens from smoking and encouraging them to quit.

Everyone knows the health risks associated with smoking - but the FDA is hoping to capitalize on how smoking deteriorates your physical appearance. The agency hopes to get this message to teens before they become addicted.

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.

This is the first national education campaign to prevent kids and teens from smoking. The goal is to reduce the number of young teens by at least 300,000 within three years.

"This campaign is about trying to reach those kids who are on the cusp of smoking, those that have already been experimenting a little bit with cigarettes or maybe are just one party away from starting to smoke and we want to reach them. We want them to understand the real costs of picking up that cigarette and smoking it and we hope that we can make a difference. We hope that ultimately we will save lives," said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of established adult smokers had their first cigarette by age 18 - so they see early intervention as critical. Each day, more than 3,200 youth in the U.S. try their first cigarette.

In 2011, the FDA said it planned to spend about $600 million over five years on the campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco, which is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.

Future campaigns will target young adults ages 18-24 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.

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