The U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiated its first public health education campaign to prevent teens from starting smoking, officials say.
Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said the public campaign entitled "The Real Cost," targets the 10 million young people ages 12-17 who are open to trying smoking or who have already smoked between one puff and 99 cigarettes in their lifetime.
"Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year. But the consequences of tobacco use are not limited to adults. Tobacco use is almost always initiated and established during adolescence," Zeller said in a statement.
"More than 3,200 young people age 19 and younger under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the United States -- and another 700 become daily smokers. FDA sees a critical need for targeted efforts to keep young people from starting on this path."
"The Real Cost" campaign ads will run nationwide beginning next Tuesday. Paid advertising will appear on TV, radio and the Internet, as well as print publications, movie theaters and outdoor locations such as bus shelters.
"We plan to reach the 10 million youth with our messages as many as 60 times a year," Zeller said.
The public education campaign is not funded by U.S. tax dollars -- user fees collected from the tobacco industry fund all FDA's tobacco-related activities, including educating the public about the harms of tobacco use, Zeller said.