The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing the launch of its first e-cigarette prevention TV ads educating kids about the dangers of e-cigarette use. The FDA also plans to provide new posters for high schools and educational materials for middle schools across the U.S. as part of “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign. The public education effort was first launched in September 2018 with hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites, as well as posters with e-cigarette prevention messages displayed in high schools across the nation, targeting nearly 10.7 million youth, aged 12-17, who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them. As the campaign’s one-year anniversary approaches, the new TV ads and school resources are designed to continue to engage youth with important public health messages about the risks of e-cigarette use.
“The troubling epidemic of youth vaping threatens to erase the years of progress we’ve made combatting tobacco use among kids, and it’s imperative that our work to tackle this immensely concerning trend continue to include efforts to educate our nation’s youth about the dangers of these products. The new ads as part of our youth prevention campaign highlight one of the many alarming aspects of youth e-cigarette use ‒ that, according to emerging science, teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes, putting them at risk of a lifetime of addiction to smoking and related disease. As our new ads state: ‘it’s not magic, it’s statistics,’ and the potential for kids to become traditional cigarette smokers because of e-cigarettes gives me great pause,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “We cannot allow the next generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine. We will continue to work to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of America’s kids through policies to limit youth access to, and appeal of, e-cigarette products, take vigorous compliance and enforcement actions to hold manufacturers and retailers accountable when they illegally market or sell these products to minors, and continue to spearhead highly successful public education efforts to warn youth about the dangers of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”
The new TV ads called “Magic” feature Julius Dein, a popular street magician, who has appeared in online videos with a number of celebrities. In the ads, the social media personality magically turns a teen’s e-cigarette or vape into a cigarette in front of their eyes. This powerful illusion illustrates that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. These risks are highlighted in research published in JAMA Network Open, which showed that, compared with non-users, youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try conventional cigarettes in the future. This was also a conclusion reached in a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report in 2018 on the Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. These new ads will run on television networks such as TeenNick, CW, ESPN and MTV, as well as on music streaming sites, social media networks and other teen-focused media channels.
Research on the increased likelihood of initiating smoking among youth e-cigarette users is particularly concerning given that over the past several years, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product by youth in the U.S. In fact, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students across the country were current (within the past 30 days) e-cigarette users in 2018, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a dramatic increase of 1.5 million students from the previous year. The data also showed that youth who used e-cigarettes also were using them more frequently, and more of them were using flavored e-cigarette products, than in 2017.
“The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign educates youth that using e-cigarettes, just like cigarettes, puts them at risk for addiction and other health consequences. The campaign’s other messages highlight that nicotine can rewire the brain to crave more nicotine, particularly because adolescent brains are still developing. Additional messages highlight that e-cigarettes can, among other things, contain dangerous chemicals such as: acrolein, a chemical that can cause irreversible lung damage; formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical; and toxic metal particles, like chromium, lead and nickel.
Since its launch, “The Real Cost” E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign is showing positive results for reach and engagement. The campaign, which originally focused on digital and social media sites popular among teens, has generated nearly 2 billion teen views in 9.5 months. Across social media platforms, the FDA has engaged teen audiences with more than 578,000 likes, 89,000 shares, and 31,000 comments. Additionally, since the agency’s work began driving teens who want to quit vaping to Teen.SmokeFree.gov, total interactions from all users with the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service telephone and online chat services have increased by more than 250%.
Next month, the FDA also plans to distribute new posters with e-cigarette prevention messages that will be displayed in high school bathrooms, a place we know many teens are using e-cigarettes or faced with the peer pressure to do so. The agency joined forces with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, to distribute the posters to all public and private high schools in the U.S. The new posters supplement those distributed to high schools nationwide over the last year and deliver new messages catered to teens such as:
- “You might as well flush your lungs while you’re at it. Vaping can deliver toxic metal particles, like nickel, lead and chromium directly into your lungs.”
- “When you find out what’s in a vape, you won’t be relieved. Vaping can expose you to some of the same cancer-causing chemicals as those found in cigarette smoke.”
In addition to the currently available materials for high schools, the FDA, in conjunction with Scholastic, is also planning to develop and distribute new lesson plans and resources for middle school teachers, students and parents that are expected to be made available throughout the 2019-2020 school year. In response to a high demand for information about the potential health consequences of youth e-cigarette use, the agency also developed posters and resources specifically for public health stakeholders such as doctors, youth groups, churches, state and local public health agencies, and others, which are available through the Center for Tobacco Products’ Exchange Lab.
In addition to the public education campaign’s work to address this growing use among kids, the FDA has taken a number of actions as part of its FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to combat the illegal sales of e-cigarettes to youth, and other actions to target kid-friendly marketing that increases the appeal of these products to youth. The agency has also undertaken efforts to further the discussion and understanding around how to help aid those kids who are already addicted to e-cigarettes quit.
“The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign is a nearly $60 million effort. The campaign is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to prevent disease and death caused by tobacco use and will complement the agency’s other youth tobacco prevention campaigns. The youth e-cigarette prevention campaign serves as an extension of initial e-cigarette prevention content first debuted in October 2017 and follows the same framework set forth by “The Real Cost” Cigarette Prevention Campaign, which has prevented nearly 350,000 youth from initiating smoking and has saved kids, their families and the country more than $31 billion by reducing smoking-related costs like early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity and increased disability.