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FDA Releases New Ads, including First Focused on Mental Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking among Youth

January 10, 2023

This week, the FDA’s “The Real Cost” Youth Cigarette Prevention Campaign launched two new ads and, for the first time, will focus on the negative mental health effects of cigarette smoking and withdrawal in an ad. One ad – “Auctioneer” – highlights the fact that cigarette withdrawal can lead to anxiety, and the other ad “Said Every Smoker Ever” – highlights the fact that 3 out of 4 teens who smoke will continue to smoke into adulthood.

These new ads aim to increase awareness that cigarette smoking can worsen the ongoing mental health crisis among teens. Research shows that a significant proportion of high school students experienced poor mental health during the past few years. Cigarette smoking can lead to nicotine addiction, which can ultimately negatively impact teens’ mental health. 

Both ads will be placed nationally on youth-focused channels across digital platforms, social media, and streaming radio, as well as on TheRealCost.gov. When youth click on the ads, they will receive more information and a suite of resources for teens facing struggles with nicotine addiction, mental health, and more. Social media content including the new ads is also available on the FDA’s Tobacco Education Resource Library for public health organizations and other interested stakeholders to use on their social media channels – see the Mental Health & Smoking and Said Every Smoker Ever videos.  

These new ads mark the next phase of “The Real Cost” initiative to combat cigarette smoking among teens. Launched in 2014, the campaign’s goal is to educate youth ages 12 to 17 who are at-risk for smoking cigarettes in the United States about its harmful effects. In its first two years, research showed “The Real Cost” prevented up to 587,000 youth ages 11 to 19 from initiating smoking between February 2014 and November 2016, half of whom might have gone on to become established adult smokers. By preventing these kids from becoming established smokers, “The Real Cost” campaign will save more than $53 billion for youth, their families and society at large by reducing smoking-related costs like early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity, and increased disability.

Since its launch, “The Real Cost” Youth Cigarette Prevention Campaign has also shown positive results for reach and engagement. The campaign has generated significant viewership, including more than 22 billion teen views since 2014. Across multiple social media platforms, the FDA has engaged teen audiences with more than five million likes, one million shares, and over 400,000 comments.

While great progress has been made in reaching youth audiences, the FDA continues to research, assess, and refresh its messaging to ensure its continued effectiveness with the audience. As part of the development for these new ads, the FDA conducted several rounds of research with teens, including focus groups. Importantly, this research includes participants from different geographies, races, ethnicities, genders, and ages based on their risk for smoking cigarettes.

The FDA will continue to spearhead these highly successful public education efforts to warn and inform youth about the dangers of all tobacco products so they can make the smart, well-informed choice not to use tobacco products.

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