FDA’s New Anti-Smoking Campaign Reflects 'Hip-Hop Culture'

By May Wilkerson 10/08/15

Can the FDA stop young people from smoking through hip-hop?

Fresh Empire
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The Food and Drug Administration’s new Fresh Empire campaign is using the style and language of “hip-hop culture” in an attempt to stop young African Americans, Hispanics and other minority teens from smoking. The $128 million campaign is funded by fees on the tobacco industry and will include TV ads, local outreach efforts, and events featuring popular musicians and DJs.

Finding creative ways to reach teens in the black and Hispanic communities is “imperative” because these groups are at a higher risk for tobacco addiction and subsequent health problems later on, said Jonca Bull, the FDA's assistant commissioner for minority health.

There are currently an estimated 4.4 million "multicultural" young people either smoking or experimenting with tobacco products in the United States. Early intervention is especially critical since nearly 90% of smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18, says the FDA.

Convincing young people to quit, or discouraging them from starting the habit in the first place, is tricky. The "hip-hop peer group" is "often hard to reach," said the FDA's top tobacco official Mitch Zeller, who oversaw the hugely successful, youth-oriented Truth campaign of the early 2000s.

"We know from our research that remaining in control is an important pillar of hip-hop culture,” said Zeller. “But smoking represents a loss of control, so tobacco use is actually in conflict with that priority." He adds that the new campaign "underscores that important message.”

Zeller hopes the Fresh Empire campaign will reach young minorities by reflecting the language and ideals of hip-hop culture, and by featuring young artists, musicians, athletes and students from diverse backgrounds. The first ad will premier on October 13 during the 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards and officials say it will run for about two years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, remaining the number one cause of preventable death in the country.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.