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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expanding its "The Real Cost" campaign to educate rural, white, male teenagers about the negative health consequences associated with smokeless tobacco use. For the first time, the FDA will highlight the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, such as nicotine addiction, gum disease, tooth loss and multiple forms of cancer.
The campaign will place advertisements in 35 U.S. markets that were specifically selected to reach its target audience. This includes traditional paid media, including television, radio, print, public signs and billboards, as well as digital advertising and social media. These efforts will be evaluated by measuring the ads' effectiveness in reaching rural, white, male teenagers and changing their thinking, attitudes, beliefs and behavioral intentions to use smokeless tobacco.
"Not only is the target audience using smokeless tobacco at a high rate, but many do not fully understand the negative health consequences of their actions," stated Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "In communities where smokeless tobacco use is part of the culture, reaching at-risk teens with compelling messaging is critical to help change their understanding of the risks and harms associated with smokeless tobacco use."
Every day in the United States, nearly 1,000 males under the age of 17 use smokeless tobacco for the first time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The FDA campaign targets white, male youth in rural areas because they are more likely to use smokeless tobacco. Recent data from the FDA's Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study shows that 31.84 percent of rural, white males aged 12-17 are either experimenting with, or at risk for, using smokeless tobacco.
The central message of this latest "The Real Cost" campaign is that "smokeless doesn't mean harmless," and seeks to motivate teenagers to reconsider what they think they know about smokeless tobacco use.
The FDA's strategic approach is based on key insights from multi-state focus groups consisting of rural, white males, ages 12-17, as well as by extensive secondary research, according to the agency. Campaign messaging focuses on topics that have been found to resonate with at-risk youth, such as cosmetic and health consequences, loss of control due to addiction, and the danger of chemicals found in smokeless tobacco products.
The campaign will also collaborate with select Minor League Baseball teams to help combat the link between baseball and smokeless tobacco use among the campaign's target audience. This summer, stadiums across the U.S. will promote tobacco-free lifestyles by displaying campaign advertising and providing opportunities for fans to meet and interact with players who support the campaign's public health messages.