FDA launches new anti-smoking campaign targeting teens

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration launched a brand new anti-smoking campaign focusing on teenagers.  FDA officials say it is the first of its kind and with good reason.

According to the FDA, 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18.  That is why the agency spent two years developing and testing "The Real Cost" campaign targeting teens ages 12-17.

"We're not lecturing kids, we're giving them information about health consequences in ways that will really mean something to them.  If you do that in the right way, you can change behaviors overtime," explained Mitch Zeller, Director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

The negative health effects of smoking are well known.  However, 50 years since the surgeon general first linked cigarettes to cancer, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., taking 480,000 lives yearly.

This new message takes a slightly different approach, hitting kids where it hurts.  It shows nicotine addiction as a bully that controls your life. Some ads even appeal to vanity, showing how smoking leads to premature wrinkles and bad teeth. Bottom line, the campaign relates to a vulnerable population

"Twelve to17 year olds are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit every day," said Zeller.  "We've got to help these kids hit the figurative pause button, if you will. We've got to help them rethink if they're going to take that first puff or if they're going to continue to smoke and become regular smokers."

The FDA will also follow 8,000 target teens over several years in order to measure the campaign's effectiveness.  "The Real Cost" campaign will be displayed on a variety of platforms, including television, magazines and social media.

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