FDA Rolls Out Anti-Vaping PSAs Aimed At Young Viewers

By Paul Gaita 07/30/19

The anti-vaping PSAs will run on TV networks with younger viewers such as TeenNick and ESPN, as well as on social media and music streaming sites.

Anti-vaping PSA aimed at young viewers
Photo via YouTube

A new television advertising campaign by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aims to educate young people about the potential dangers of e-cigarette use and "vaping."

In an announcement on July 22, the FDA kicked off a new set of "The Real Cost" public service announcements, which hope to highlight the increased potential for e-cigarette users to transition to traditional cigarettes.

The new ads will run on television networks that appeal to younger audiences like TeenNick and ESPN, as well as on social media and music streaming sites.

The Real Cost ads feature popular street magician Julius Dein. In the two spots, Dein transforms a young observer's e-cigarette into a cigarette before his eyes. The intent is to underscore statistics that show that young people who use e-cigarettes are more prone to trying conventional cigarettes. 

Teen Vaping Epidemic

The FDA noted in its announcement that this likelihood of transitioning to tobacco products is particularly alarming due to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which show that in 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States had used an e-cigarette product within the last 30 days. Those numbers reflect an increase of 1.5 million students from data provided in 2017, as well as increases in both the frequency of e-cigarette use and the number of flavored vape products.

Scholastic Joins The Cause

The campaign will also encompass prevention messages on posters to be distributed through the children's publishing and education company Scholastic to all public and private high schools in the United States. The posters will deliver messages that highlight the potentially toxic contents of vaping products, which can include lead, nickel and chromium, which can pose serious health risks including increased risk of cancer.

The Real Cost TV spots are part of a larger, nearly $60 million public education campaign that was launched in September 2018 with advertising on digital and social media sites and posters in high schools across the nation that targeted about 10.7 million young people ages 12-17. As Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD, noted, "The new ads, as part of our youth 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."

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Juul, one of the leading manufacturers of e-cigarette products, said, "We share these concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage."

These efforts have included support for legislation that would raise the legal smoking age to 21 and the closure of Juul's Facebook and Instagram accounts in the United States.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.