New program aims to keep at-risk teens from becoming addicted to cigarettes
Last month, the FDA launched an anti-smoking campaign targeting youth who are at risk of becoming addicted to cigarettes. “The Real Cost” approach educates teens about the effect smoking has on their bodies. Kathy Crosby, director of the Office of Health Communication and Education in the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, discussed aspects of the campaign and how it was developed.
Why Target At-Risk Youth?
“We know nine out of 10 addicted adult smokers started before the age of 18, and that’s a startling fact,” said Crosby. She added that 3,200 kids each day smoke their first cigarette. “Although we’d like to think that the problem is solved, we can’t not try to give them the knowledge they need to allow them to have healthier outcomes in their life.”
10 Million At-Risk Youth
Although roughly 55 percent of all 12- to 17-year-olds have made the decision never to interact with tobacco, there remains 40 percent of kids (10 million) who do try it. “[They are] either at an immediate risk for initiation, like, one party away or already experimenting socially. It’s these kids we’re trying to reach and really disrupt their current thinking so they stop using the product before they become addicted.”
Of the 10 million youth targeted for the message, Crosby estimates that a million and a half African Americans are identified as being at-risk. “We were really specific in the research that we did that we were over sampling all multicultural audiences that we think we developed a message that’s relevant no matter the race you are.”
“At-Risk” Teens Are Most Vulnerable
At-risk teens tend to have led troubled lives already and are at risk for other risky behaviors, such as drug use and partaking in unprotected sex. They often live in lower socio-economic homes and may have only one parent in the household holding multiple jobs, according to Crosby. These teens are surrounded by smokers and people making them more likely to pick up the habit.
To learn more about teens, smoking at the FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign, go to BET.com.