FDA's Anti-Smokeless Tobacco Campaign Targets Rural Teens

The FDA is expanding The Real Cost" campaign to focus on educating rural male teens about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

The FDA is expanding “The Real Cost” campaign to focus on educating rural male teens about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

The advertisements, which will be placed in 35 US markets, will warn teenagers about nicotine addiction, gum disease, tooth loss, and multiple kinds of cancer.

“Not only is the target audience using smokeless tobacco at a high rate, but many do not fully understand the negative health consequences of their actions,” said Mitch Zeller, JD, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in a press release. “In communities where smokeless tobacco use is part of the culture, reaching at-risk teens with compelling messaging is critical to help change their understanding of the risks and harms associated with smokeless tobacco use.”

Products like dip, chew, snus, and any tobacco that dissolves in the mouth are all considered smokeless tobacco.

Every day, around 1000 boys aged 18 years or younger try smokeless tobacco for the first time, which is nearly the same number of boys who try a cigarette for the first time each day, thus highlighting the need for early intervention.

Individuals in rural areas are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than those in urban areas, according to the FDA. Nearly one-third of rural, white males aged 12 to 17 years are experimenting with or at risk for using smokeless tobacco.

Some boys may see smokeless tobacco as a rite of passage after witnessing their older male role models, such as fathers and grandfathers, use the products.

“The Real Cost” smokeless tobacco prevention campaign, which will appear on TV, radio, print, public signs, social media, and billboards, aims to change these teens’ thinking, attitudes, belief, and behavioral intentions to use smokeless tobacco. The messaging will focus on the areas of most importance to at-risk teens, according to FDA research: cosmetic and health consequences, loss of control due to addiction, and dangerous chemicals.

The campaign is also collaborating with some Minor League Baseball teams to combat the association between baseball and smokeless tobacco. In stadiums across the country this summer, fans will meet baseball players who support the public health campaign.

The tagline “smokeless doesn’t mean harmless” was designed to emphasize to youth that even smokeless tobacco comes at a cost—to both their wallets and their health.