Nearly 38 million Americans still smoke tobacco, and as inequality in America continues to expand by many measures, the smoking epidemic is a growing aspect of that divide. 72 percent of remaining smokers are from lower-income communities and this is no accident. Big Tobacco not only targets these communities to start smoking, but makes it harder for them to stop with products designed to be more addictive. The exploitative practices of the tobacco industry are the reason why smoking rates are nearly twice as high among people living below the poverty line.
truth, one of the largest and most effective youth tobacco prevention campaigns, teamed up with GRAMMY-nominated Imagine Dragons lead vocalist Dan Reynolds and country star Jon Pardi, in a new campaign set to debut during the 60th annual GRAMMY Awards. These award-winning singers, along with young people from communities exploited by the tobacco industry, will lend their voices to call out Big Tobacco for preying on the nation’s most vulnerable populations.
The campaign, titled “Worth More,” exposes the tobacco industry’s exploitation of residents in these areas. Lower-income communities are more likely to:
- Have more tobacco retailers
- Have larger, more prominent advertisements for tobacco
- Have a lower mean retail price
- Have tobacco retailers within 1,000 feet of a school
In addition to engineering tobacco plants with two times the natural levels of nicotine to fuel addiction, tobacco companies spend more than $8 billion per year marketing their products. More than 80 percent of that budget (which equates to nearly $7 billion per year) is spent on discounting practices or lowering the costs of cigarettes, so consumers can spend less and smoke more.
“The industry is adept at putting bulls-eyes on the backs of people they believe can be manipulated,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative®, the national public health organization that directs and funds the truth campaign. “Making cigarettes cheaper and more addictive are just two of the many ways that the tobacco industry exploits hard working communities. Where you live, how much you have, or what you do shouldn’t determine how much you’re worth.”
Unfortunately, this particularly impacts young people, with more than 3,200 Americans under 18 smoking their first cigarette every day. Although teen smoking of traditional cigarettes in the United States reached a historic low of 5.4 percent in 2017, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 540,000 Americans each year.
This campaign comes on the heels of court-ordered ads that Big Tobacco is currently airing, which admit to the deadly effects of smoking, including the manipulation of nicotine levels in cigarettes. According to new Truth Initiative research, 81 percent of respondents had not seen them on TV or in the newspaper. By unveiling this campaign at the GRAMMY Awards, truth is able to accomplish what the corrective statements could not by successfully reaching millions of American youth.
Those who want to take action are encouraged to tell Big Tobacco why they’re #worthmore by tweeting to @truthorange and using the custom profile photo overlay that can be downloaded at thetruth.com to share across social media profiles.
“Worth More” follows the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, where truth called out Big Tobacco for exploiting individuals with mental health conditions and members of the military. The campaign encourages and empowers young people to use their creativity as a powerful force for change.
The FinishIT campaign and new “Worth More” creative were developed by 72andSunny. Media planning and buying is handled by Assembly.