Smoking among teenagers has declined dramatically in the last two decades, according to the Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller, due in no small part to the Truth campaign initiated by Legacy, a national public health foundation. Already boasting excellent success rates in preventing more than 450,000 teenagers from heading down the road to nicotine addiction, by reports from The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, they are now setting their sights on stamping out the problem altogether with the new Finish It campaign. The ads challenge teenagers to rise up and be the generation that draws the line on smoking once and for all.
The Truth campaign, launched in 2000, capitalized on teenagers’ rebellious tendencies in exposing the reality of smoking-related deaths and shifting their perception of rebellion from cigarettes to standing up to the tobacco industry. The Finish It campaign urges teens to persevere in the fight to end smoking in their generation, pointing out that although the percentage of teens that smoke is less than half what it was 14 years ago, there is still work to be done to stamp it out for good.
The new campaign is leveraging the power of their teen audience’s social media, urging them to go against the grain and post a profile picture with the Truth X logo superimposed. The idea is to counter the influence of peers who post smoking pictures of themselves in an attempt to “look cool” (or tough or sexy).
Legacy is targeting 15 to 21 year old consumers in theaters and online advertising but will also try to get the anti-smoking message out to older smokers. They estimate spending about $130 million in advertising over the next 36 months. Unlike other public health campaigns who rely on donated advertising spots, the Truth campaign pays for its own spots out of investments and new fundraising. Chief executive Robin Koval explains that paid advertising allows them to more effectively target their message where and when it will have the most powerful effect.
72 and Sunny’s chief creative officer, Glenn Cole states that today’s teenagers are more likely to take positive steps against smoking than to protest big tobacco companies. He adds that 91 percent of teenagers are non-smokers, giving them a huge numerical advantage in exerting peer pressure to encourage their peers not to smoke. In fact, Legacy’s Finish It campaign does issue a call to arms to the young audience, appealing to their sense of power and creativity to make a difference by using their powers of persuasion to stop a friend’s smoking before it becomes a lifelong habit.
President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew L. Myers agrees that strategies that tack into teenagers’ desires to take charge, be involved and effect positive social change are the best way to reach them with the anti-smoking message and continue the trend in declining adolescent tobacco use. Today’s teenagers are alot more savvy about the health risks of smoking and the manipulative strategies of the tobacco companies designed to lure them in and separate them from their money than they were 14 years ago. Teenagers who want to be a part of spreading the Finish It campaign’s message of truth about smoking among their friends can follow their Facebook page.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of Ken Hawkins – Flickr License