FDA's antismoking campaign shows graphic oral health 'costs'

By Rabia Mughal, DrBicuspid.com contributing editor

February 13, 2014 -- A young boy walks into a store, places a few dollars on the counter, and asks for a pack of cigarettes. The cashier tells him the money is not enough. The boy pauses, takes out a pair of pliers, and yanks out his tooth to complete the payment.

"What are cigarettes costing you?" asks a voiceover.

This is the hard-hitting message from one of the advertisements in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) first-ever public health education campaign, "The Real Cost," to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk young people ages 12 to 17.

The voiceover warns that a pack of smokes can cost you your teeth, because smoking can cause serious gum disease that makes you more likely to lose them.

"Cost" is the main theme of the campaign, getting teens to think about the range of costs associated with smoking, beyond money, the FDA said. The campaign stresses the costs of tobacco use that resonate with teens -- for example, cosmetic health effects such as tooth loss and skin damage.

The FDA's "The Real Cost" campaign aims to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk young people ages 12 to 17.

"The ads dramatize the health consequences of smoking in a meaningful way by graphically depicting health consequences such as tooth loss and skin damage to demonstrate that every cigarette comes with a 'cost' that is more than just financial," according to an FDA statement sent to DrBicuspid.com. "As a regulatory agency, everything that the FDA does is grounded in science, and we approached the development of the campaign the same way."

The campaign uses visually compelling and personally relevant ads to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use and to encourage them to be tobacco-free, according to the FDA statement. It is about reaching the on-the-cusp youth smokers -- the kids who have experimented already or who are one party away from smoking.

A big part of the compaign's message is the negative impact of smoking on oral health. The messages include the following:

  • See what your smile could look like if you smoke
  • Smoking cigarettes can cause yellow teeth
  • Smoking causes bad breath and gum disease, which could cost you your teeth

"When it comes to teenagers, their appearance is extremely important to them," ADA spokesperson Robert M. Pick, DDS, told DrBicuspid.com. "Teeth and how one smiles is also very important to teens -- just look at any teen magazine and those that market to teens. Therefore the focus of these ads or messages is smoking affects and ruins their skin and messes up their teeth and their smile."

In adolescents, smoking can stunt growth, stain teeth, and cause premature wrinkles, Dr. Pick noted. It can also cause bad breadth, stained teeth, a stained tongue, dull the senses of taste and smell, and cause slow healing after tooth extraction or other surgery. In addition, it can be the etiology of periodontal disease, cause difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems, not to mention the very serious consequence -- oral cancer.

“The goal is to stop people from smoking period.”
— Robert M. Pick, DDS

"All dentists should be educated to the effects of smoking, and all dentists should absolutely discuss these consequences with their patients," he said.

Dr. Pick added that many factors could have prompted this campaign. He pointed out that every day more than 3,200 children younger than age 18 smoke a cigarette for the first time, about 700 of them become daily regular smokers, and 9 out of 10 regular smokers had their first cigarette by the time they were 18.

"To me those are alarming statistics," Dr. Pick said. "By targeting this young audience, the goal is to stop people from smoking period."

The ADA supports FDA regulation of all tobacco products, including those with risk reduction or exposure reduction claims, explicit or implicit, and any other products offered to the public to promote reduction in or cessation of tobacco use.

Dr. Pick said that it is the ADA's hope, and on a personal level his hope too, that by relating to teens on a level that hits home with them, they can be stopped from smoking early or prevented from smoking in the first place.

The campaign, created with global marketing communication agency Draftfcb, uses a multimedia approach, including television, radio, print, online, and out-of-home advertising. Ads will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least 12 months. The $115 million campaign is funded by industry user fees and launched nationwide on February 11.

Copyright © 2014 DrBicuspid.com
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