FDA Launches Health Campaign Targeting Rural Teens Using Smokeless Tobacco
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FDA Launches Health Campaign Targeting Rural Teens Using Smokeless Tobacco

April 19, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is using targeted advertising in hopes of getting teenage boys to quit using smokeless tobacco.

As part of an expansion of its "Real Cost" campaign the FDA is using strategically placed advertising to educate rural, white, male teenagers about the negative health consequences associated with smokeless tobacco use, including gum disease, tooth loss and cancer.

The FDA is targeting this particular group of teens because the agency says it is culturally ingrained in many rural communities and can be a rite of passage for younger boys who see their fathers, grandfathers, older brothers, and community leaders using it. Smokeless tobacco is used twice as often in rural areas compared to urban areas and according to the most recent FDA data, about 32 percent of rural white teen boys are either experimenting with, or at risk for, using smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco, which is often chewed, is sometimes seen as a safer alternative to smoking, but that's far from the case. The campaign will focus on cosmetic and health consequences, loss of control due to addiction, and the danger of chemicals found in smokeless tobacco products.

The messages will be seen on traditional paid media as well as digital advertising and social media. The campaign is also partnering with some Minor League Baseball teams and players. Smokeless tobacco has long been considered a baseball staple and this partnership aims to combat that link.

The Real Cost campaign launched in February 2014 and a campaign targeted toward urban youth launched in October 2015.