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FDA to Teens: Consider ‘Real Cost’ of Tobacco

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FDA asks teens to consider Auremar/PhotoSpin

Ads aimed at discouraging kids and teens from using tobacco began to air on Feb. 11, 2014 on TV, radio and the Internet across the nation, as part of a new hard-hitting anti-smoking campaign launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Real Cost campaign goal is to reduce the number of future adults who are at risk of developing serious long-term tobacco-related health problems by convincing young people 12-17-years of age who smoke or are experimenting with cigarettes to kick the habit now, and stay tobacco free for life, said FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg.

This is the FDA's first ever campaign to prevent youth tobacco use.

The federal agency estimates more than 10 million teens are open to smoking or already have experimented with cigarettes and are in danger of become hooked in the near future. That’s a big social and financial problem for a struggling national economy.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and more than 480,000 deaths in the United States each year. It costs the nation $193 billion annually in health care and lost productivity, according to the American Cancer Association.

Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said that tweens and teens share important characteristics that put them at risk for tobacco use.

“They [at-risk teens] are more likely to live chaotic, stressful lives due to factors such as socioeconomic conditions; be exposed to smoking by friends and family; and use tobacco as a coping mechanism or a way to exert control or independence,” he said.

Additionally, many at-risk youths who experiment with cigarettes don’t consider themselves smokers or believe they will become addicted, and they are not particularly interested in the topic of tobacco use. Yet, some recent studies show current adult smokers who held these beliefs as teens were still lighting up a decade later.

So far the FDA has produced six ads that use a little fear and vanity to show teens, despite what they might see in pop culture, smoking is far from glamorous — and it might just kill you.

Take a look here to see some of the powerful anti-smoking clips created by the FDA.

“We want to make these teens hyperconscious of the risk from every cigarette by highlighting consequences that young people are concerned about, such as loss of control due to addiction and health effects like tooth loss and skin damage,” Zeller said.

Tobacco use is almost always initiated and established during adolescence, health experts say. The younger a person is when they start, the more likely they will become hooked and the more intense their addiction.

Several health studies show adults who started using tobacco as teens tend to experience intense nicotine addictions similar to heroine or cocaine — even at low-level tobacco use.

Experts believe because a teen’s brain is still developing — and will likely do so until age 25 — early nicotine exposure alters that development by rewiring the brain for addiction, making quitting even more difficult than for those who started smoking as adults.

More than 3,200 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the United States — and another 700 become daily smokers, the FDA says.

“FDA sees a critical need for targeted efforts to keep young people from starting on this path. Reducing the number of teens who start smoking will diminish the harmful consequences that tobacco use has on the future health of our country,” said Zeller.

Will today’s teens heed the anti-tobacco message? Time will tell, but this isn’t exactly uncharted territory.

A similar 3-month campaign launched in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convinced 100,000 to permanently kick tobacco.

The FDA will follow 8,000 teens nationwide for two years to see if exposure to the $115 million campaign is associated with a decrease in youth smoking. The campaign is funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and watersport junkie who lives in San Diego with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in publications internationally.


FDA to Teens: Consider the “Real Cost’ of Tobacco Use.
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm383887.htm and http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofMedicalProductsandTobacco/AbouttheCenterforTobaccoProducts/PublicEducationCampaigns/TheRealCostCampaign/ucm384433.htm

FDA Public Education Campaign Aims to Prevent and Reduce Youth Tobacco Use. Margaret Hamburg. FDA Voice

Brain Maturity Extends Well Beyond Teen Years. Interview with Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and co-author of the book Welcome to Your Child's Brain. NPR. 10 Oct. 2011.

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. U.S. Surgeon General Report on Tobacco.

The True Cost of Smoking and Tobacco Use. Infographic. Tobacco Atlas 4th edition. American Cancer Society.

Government’s Stop Smoking Ad Campaign Got Results. Adweek. 9 Sep 2013.

Reviewed February 11, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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