Cigarettes are still the number one preventable cause of disease, disability, and death, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As part of their first youth tobacco prevention campaign, the FDA is trying a new, more superficial “scare tactic” to end teen smoking before it starts. With the knowledge that teens are vulnerable to low self-esteem, much of which can stem from a negative self-image, the FDA is now focusing on the truth that tobacco blackens more than just lungs.
Their latest initiative, titled “The Real Cost,” is aimed at teens 12-17 years old – the age range during which most daily smokers take their first puff. The campaign features three videos demonstrating the more shallow symptoms of smoking. In one commercial, a young woman asks for a pack of cigarettes at a gas station but is told she does not have enough money. Instead of searching through her purse for extra change, she places her hand to her cheek, removes some of her skin and offers this as payment to the clerk, who accepts. Another video shows a man removing a tooth with pliers in order to pay for his pack. These graphic images are meant to shock the teen viewer into understanding the “real cost” of smoking cigarettes.
Draftfcb, the advertising company who partnered with the FDA, started their research last November and used the data they collected to create “Pete” – a fictitious persona who embodies their target audience. Pete is a teen-aged sensationalist risk taker who is unsure of his status in the world and is a pessimist. It was from understanding the pattern in behavioral signs and living situations found in their study, and represented by Pete, that Draftfcb and the FDA were able to effectively develop such a targeted campaign.
All in all, Draftfcb and the FDA put tons of research, time, and money (nearly $115 million) into this initiative with the expectation it will reach 9 million youth 60 times during the next year. Draftfcb plans to follow the same teens they tested in November throughout the course of this campaign to measure its effectiveness. If their hard work pays off, the next generation may have smoother skin, toothier smiles, and healthier lungs.