WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation's at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking.
The federal agency said Tuesday it is launching a $115 million multimedia education campaign called "The Real Cost" that's aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.
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.
"Our kids are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit each day," said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "And that's why we think it's so important to reach out to them — not to lecture them, not to throw statistics at them — but to reach them in a way that will get them to rethink their relationship with tobacco use."
Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation in the early 2000s, called the new campaign a "compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way" of grabbing the attention of more than 10 million young people ages 12 to 17 that are open to, or are already experimenting with, cigarettes.
According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by age 18 and more than 700 kids under 18 become daily smokers each day. The agency aims to reduce the number of youth cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 within three years.
"While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "We'll highlight some of the real costs and health consequences associated with tobacco use by focusing on some of the things that really matter to teens — their outward appearance and having control and independence over their lives."