Ads aim to show 'real costs' of smoking

FDA hopes $115-million advertising blitz will educate kids

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Today alone, more than 3,000 American children under 18 took a puff on their first cigarette, while more than 700 others became daily smokers, according to the government.

The FDA is now hoping a $115-million advertising blitz featuring graphic and gripping images will educate kids on the "real cost" of smoking.

With several commercials, the agency wants to hammer home the point that the "real cost" of using tobacco is more than just money.

In one spot, a teenager doesn't have enough "money" to pay for her cigarettes, so the clerk says she needs more. The teen proceeds to peel off a piece of her face and leaves it on the counter.

In a similar ad, a teen asks for a pack of menthols, and when he's told he doesn't have enough to pay for it, he takes a pair of pliers and yanks out some of his teeth.

Mitch Zeller, with the FDA, said they wanted to use images to which kids between the ages of 12 and 17 can relate.

"We're using compelling facts, vivid imagery and personally relevant messages to reach them," Zeller said. "We're also highlighting consequences youth are concerned about, like loss of control due to addiction and health effects like tooth loss and skin damage."

Dr. Howard Koh, of Health and Human Services, said the images need to be as real as it gets for teens to relate to them.

"Vulnerable kids need to see and feel what the true risks of tobacco actually are," Koh said. "Kids need messages that vividly and viscerally reveal the real cost of tobacco."

Other ads take a different approach, highlighting the "loss of control" element. Teens talk about smoking beginning to take over their lives, almost bullying them into doing things they didn't want to do, or spending money they didn't want to spend.

Channel 4 talked to a Jacksonville mom and her daughter who said the ads are right on target.

"That's a good one," said Beverly Stotler. "That's exactly how it is."

Stotler's daughter, Amanda, who doesn't smoke, said she doesn't understand why anyone would want to anyway.

"The price keeps going up and you're just spending money on something that's going to eventually kill you," Amanda said.

But another local woman thought the ads missed the mark. Lori Lawrence, a Clay County teacher, said, "It takes the wrong approach. It kind of disturbs me."

The "Real Cost" campaign commercials will be on TV, radio and in print starting Feb. 11.

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