Washington, DC - As someone who has dedicated his life to reducing the public health burden and suffering caused by cancer, it is all too clear that we must do everything we can to prevent kids from starting down a path of a lifelong addiction to tobacco and its associated harms. At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a critical component of our work to protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death has been to deploy highly successful campaigns to educate them about the dangers of using these products. And these efforts are yielding tremendous results that are benefitting our nation’s youth and society as a whole and are being carried over into our work to educate youth about the dangers of e-cigarette use.
Today, we are proud to be highlighting the continued success and tangible impact “The Real Cost” campaign has had on youth smoking initiation in a new study Disclaimer published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study, which builds on previous evaluations, shows that our award-winning campaign has prevented up to 587,000 youth nationwide from initiating smoking between the campaign’s launch in February 2014 and November 2016, half of whom might have gone on to become established smokers. Preventing youth from smoking is not only critical to each teen who does not become an addicted smoker, but these results are also enormously beneficial to public health.
Tobacco use – largely from cigarette smoking – still kills more than 480,000 Americans every single year and costs nearly $300 billion a year in direct health care expenses and lost productivity due to premature death. Additionally, almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 18 and approximately 2,000 youth smoke their first cigarette every day in the U.S., making youth prevention efforts critical.
The results from our work demonstrate that “The Real Cost” will have lasting benefits on public health by convincing these teens to not smoke and it’s imperative that public education campaigns like ours continue in order to reduce the individual and collective burden of tobacco-related disease and death among current and future generations.
In fact, using the same methodology as our previous analysis Disclaimer, it is estimated that by preventing hundreds of thousands of youth from becoming established adult smokers, “The Real Cost” will save more than $53 billion for youth, their families and society at large by reducing smoking-related costs like early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity and increased disability. Ultimately this means the campaign to educate the more than 10 million at-risk teens in the U.S. about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking saved $180 for every dollar of the nearly $250 million invested in the campaign.
Importantly, our youth tobacco prevention efforts are developed and evaluated using evidence-based best practices to ensure that we’re reaching our audience with powerful messages that raise awareness, shift beliefs and ultimately save lives by changing behaviors. Since “The Real Cost” launched in 2014, it has reached up to 95% of its target U.S. youth audience aged 12-17 with thousands of messages through TV, digital, social, outdoor and radio platforms. More than 21.9 million youth have spent time on TheRealCost.gov since its launch in 2014 and 31.6 million youth have engaged with the FDA on social media.
Capitalizing on its success, the agency has expanded “The Real Cost” campaign over the last several years to include advertising about the harms of smokeless tobacco use, and more recently to educate youth that using e-cigarettes – just like cigarettes – puts them at risk for addiction and other health consequences.
As we continue to tackle the troubling epidemic of youth vaping that threatens to erase the progress we’ve made combatting tobacco use among kids, we’re extremely confident that these proven practices will help us succeed in our related efforts to educate them about the dangers of e-cigarette use. Earlier this year, our youth e-cigarette prevention campaign broadened to include its first TV ads about the emerging science that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. We’ve also launched several other tobacco prevention campaigns targeting youth and young adults.
As part of our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, we will maintain our energy and focus on using our authorities forcefully to keep tobacco products out of the hands of America’s kids, with a particular emphasis on the threat of youth vaping. This includes advancing policies to limit youth access to, and appeal of, e-cigarettes and other products; exploring clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive; taking vigorous compliance and enforcement actions to hold manufacturers and retailers accountable when they illegally market or sell these products to minors; and continuing to spearhead highly successful public education efforts to warn youth about the dangers of all tobacco products. The success of our work in protecting kids from the dangers of tobacco use has been clearly demonstrated through these efforts and we will continue using every tool possible to ensure the next generation of young people do not become addicted to any tobacco products.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.