By Toni Clarke
WASHINGTON Feb 4 A major new anti-tobacco
campaign will be launched in the United States next week aimed
at vulnerable teenagers at risk of becoming addicted to
The $115 million campaign, to be overseen by the Food and
Drug Administration, will target the 10 million young people
aged 12 to 17 who are open to trying cigarettes or who are
already experimenting with them and are in danger of becoming
regular smokers, the FDA said. There were about 25 million
children in that age group in 2012, according to U.S. Census
The campaign is the first of several scheduled to be
launched over the next two years. The others will be directed at
rural, gay, African American, and American Indian youth.
The campaigns are expected to cost $400 million altogether.
They are being funded with fees paid to the FDA by the tobacco
industry under a 2009 law that gives the FDA authority to
regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and roll-your-own
The goal of the initiative is to reduce the number of youth
cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 within three years, the
The first campaign, called "The Real Cost," will launch on
Feb. 11 and targets marginalized youngsters who may be starting
to turn to tobacco as a way of coping with poor or stressful
lives, Mitch Zeller, head of the FDA's tobacco products
division, said at a media briefing on Monday.
The ads will appear in print and on TV and radio as well as
on billboards and at bus stops, addressing typical teenage
issues such as concerns with appearance and the desire to strike
out and become independent.
One series of ads features a bully who demands money. A
print ad shows a small, greasy-haired bully standing inside a
school locker yelling, "Outside Now, Punk." The tag line says:
"You wouldn't take it from a tiny bully, but when you're hooked
on tobacco, you're taking it from a cigarette."
Another series of ads focuses on the cosmetic damage
cigarettes can cause, especially to the skin and teeth.
In one TV ad a young girl goes into a convenience store to
buy a packet of cigarettes. She hands over the money but the
clerk says "it's not enough." The girl reaches up and peels a
large piece of skin off her face and slides it across the
In a similar ad a young man asks for a packet of menthol
cigarettes. When told by the clerk that the money is not enough
he takes a wrench, pulls out one of his teeth, and hands that
The ads, which were created by the advertising agency
DraftFCB, a unit of Interpublic Group, have been
rigorously tested with the target audience, Zeller said, adding
that he is very optimistic they will achieve the desired results
of turning some kids away from smoking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics welcomed the FDA's
efforts to counter to what it termed the "multitude of
influences" that push kids toward smoking.
"We need a fresh campaign, based on the best evidence about
communicating with teens in their own space and on their own
terms," AAP President Dr. James Perrin said in a statement on
To judge whether campaign is successful, the FDA plans to
monitor 8,000 young people over two years to measure changes in
attitudes toward tobacco and on behavior before and after the
Each day, more than 3,200 people under the age of 18 try
their first cigarette and more than 700 become daily smokers,
the FDA said.
Ninety percent of adult smokers start smoking before the age
of 18, "which is why early intervention is so critical," FDA
Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at the briefing.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free
Kids, an advocacy group, said in a statement on Tuesday that the
FDA's campaign "will ensure that the media designed to prevent
at-risk young people from using tobacco are of the same quality
and use the same cutting-edge marketing techniques that the
tobacco industry has long used to attract them."
The first campaign does not cover electronic cigarettes,
which the FDA does not currently regulate, though that will
likely change. The agency is expected to shortly issue proposed
regulations to extend its authority to e-cigarettes and cigars.
The proposed regulations are currently being reviewed by the
White House's Office of Management and Budget.