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A media campaign focused on preventing the nation’s youth from smoking cigarettes or vaping has prevented hundreds of thousands of teens from developing the harmful habit, according to a recent analysis.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) teen tobacco prevention program, The Real Cost, has prevented 400,000 to 600,000 teens from vaping and smoking cigarettes, according to researchers from the Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research. The findings were published on August 20 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The Real Cost campaign was launched in early 2014, seeking to prevent teens from smoking cigarettes. Recently, the FDA added an initiative to prevent teens from using e-cigarettes since e-cigarettes have become the most popular form of tobacco among teens in the U.S.
The new study focused on quantifying the effectiveness of the campaign. It used data from February 2014 to November 2016 which included 5,100 nonsmoking teens from 75 media markets in the U.S.
Teens had at least one baseline survey and four post-campaign surveys to assess tobacco use and exposure to the campaign.
In this study, researchers found that since its launch, the program has reached up to 95% of the target U.S. teen audience with thousands of messages through TV, digital, social, outdoor, and radio platforms. More than 21.9 million teens have spent time on TheRealCost.gov since its launch and 31 million teens engaged with the FDA on social media.
The study indicated the odds of youth starting smoking were smaller among teens in campaign markets that had high exposure levels of the ads than those in non-campaign markets.
Overall, the campaign helped prevent 380,000 to 587,000 teens ages 11-19 from smoking. This results in saving the country $53 billion in smoking related costs, such as early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity, and increased disability.
“Sustained national tobacco public education campaigns like The Real Cost can change population-level smoking initiation among youths, preventing future generations from tobacco-related harms,” researchers wrote.
Tobacco use kills nearly 500,000 Americans every single year, costing nearly $300 billion a year in health care expenses. Nearly 90% of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 18, which is why it is crucial to prevent teens from smoking to begin with.
The FDA issued a press release announcing the results as signs the campaign was a success.
“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,” Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, Acting Commissioner of the FDA, said in the press release. “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.”
The analysis comes amid a growing number of JUUL vaping lawsuits filed by young adults, teenagers and parents, claiming that the manufacturer of the most popular form of e-cigarette targeted their addictive product toward teens and withheld important safety warnings.