FDA’s Bold New Media Campaign Will Prevent Kids from Smoking and Save Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Feb. 4 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — The FDA's new public education campaign aimed at preventing youth tobacco use represents the kind of bold action needed to accelerate the nation's progress in reducing tobacco use and ultimately end the tobacco epidemic for good. This is exactly the strong, science-based response called for by the recent Surgeon General's Report, which found that smoking is even more hazardous and takes an even greater toll on the nation's health than previously reported.

Read more after watching this ad from the FDA campaign.

The FDA’s unprecedented campaign, announced today, 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. In contrast to the industry’s marketing that glamorizes tobacco use, the FDA's campaign will tell America's youth the harsh truth about the health and other costs of tobacco use.

This $115 million campaign will serve as a critical counter to the $8.8 billion a year – $1 million every hour — the tobacco industry spends to market its deadly and addictive products, often in ways that appeal to kids. The tobacco companies spend more on marketing every five days than the FDA will spend in an entire year on its new campaign.

Recent Surgeon General's reports have found conclusive evidence that tobacco marketing causes kids to start and continue smoking, while mass media campaigns are effective at reducing tobacco use among both youth and adults (see our fact sheet: Public Education Campaigns Reduce Tobacco Use).

The FDA's campaign comes just weeks after the latest Surgeon General's report found that smoking kills 480,000 Americans and costs the nation at least $289 billion in health care expenses and other economic costs each year. Tobacco is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, accounting for about one in every five deaths in the U.S.

The Surgeon General's report also found that 5.6 million children alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease, unless current trends are reversed. The new FDA campaign will prevent many of these kids from using tobacco, sparing them the premature deaths and devastating diseases that so often result.

The FDA's campaign, along with the CDC's Tips from Former Smokers campaign that was re-launched this week, are important steps toward fulfilling one of the key actions recommended by the new Surgeon General's report. The report calls for "counteracting industry marketing by sustaining high impact media campaigns like the CDC's Tips from Former Smokers campaign and the FDA's youth prevention campaigns at a high frequency level and exposure for 12 months a year for a decade or more."

The FDA's campaign targeting at-risk youth perfectly complements the Tips campaign, which is aimed primarily at encouraging current adult smokers to quit and has proved highly effective at doing so. We applaud the FDA and the CDC for their leadership in running these two well-coordinated campaigns, one aimed at preventing kids from using tobacco and the other aimed at encouraging smokers to quit. These are smart investments that will reduce tobacco use, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.

Background: Evidence that Media Campaigns Work

Substantial scientific evidence shows that mass media campaigns reduce the number of children who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit, saving lives and health care dollars. Public health authorities including the Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have all examined the evidence and concluded that these campaigns work:

  • The 2014 Surgeon General's report concluded that "mass media campaigns… prevent initiation of tobacco use and reduce the prevalence of tobacco use among youth and adults." The 2012 Surgeon General's report concluded, "Evidence indicates that mass media campaigns can be one of the most effective strategies in changing social norms and preventing youth smoking."
  • A comprehensive 2008 scientific review by the National Cancer Institute, The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, also concluded that media campaigns are effective in reducing smoking among youth and adults.
  • States that have conducted extensive media campaigns as part of their successful tobacco prevention programs — including California, Florida, New York and Washington — have reduced smoking rates far faster, and to lower levels, than the nation as a whole. Florida recently reported that its high school smoking rate fell to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below national rates.
  • Nationally, research found that Legacy's truth® campaign, targeted at young people, was responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years.
  • There is also growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs — including media campaigns — save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. A December 2011 study found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, which included mass media, Washington State saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.

 

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