A recent BBC article revealed that smoking is down among all age groups in the U.K. The study, conducted by the Office of National Statistics, shows the largest decrease was among 18- to 24-year-olds. Smoking declined from 25.8 percent in 2010 to 20 percent in 2015 among that age group.
The data suggests one reason for the decrease is that youth and teens aren’t picking up the habit in the first place. Seventy percent of 16- to 24-year-olds have never started smoking cigarettes – up from 46 percent in 1974, when records began.
The CDC says it’s seeing the same trend in the U.S.
So, what’s causing them to say no to smoking? George Butterworth, from Cancer Research UK, says it’s a combination of government-funded services, smoking bans and mass media campaigns.
Let’s take a look at three tobacco prevention campaigns that seem to be having an impact.
The Real Cost Seeks to Prevent Youth-Aged Smoking
In 2014, the FDA launched the first federally funded U.S. youth tobacco education campaign, The Real Cost. The campaign has two goals – educate about the harmful effects of tobacco and reduce the number of youth ages 12-17 who use tobacco. It focuses on two key audience segments: teens that are open to trying tobacco and teens who are at risk for moving from experimenting with tobacco to regular use.
The multi-channel campaign uses science-based facts about tobacco to highlight the consequences youth are concerned about. This includes loss of control due to addiction, dangerous chemicals, and health effects like tooth loss and skin damage.
According to the campaign’s evaluation, released in January, high levels of exposure to the campaign messaging were associated with a 40 percent decrease in the risk of smoking initiation among youth aged 11 to 18. And overall, The Real Cost campaign has prevented nearly 350,000 youth and teens aged 11 to 18 nationwide from smoking.
Truth Empowers Teens to Take Action
Truth has been credited with lowering the U.S. teen smoking rate from 23 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2016. By sharing facts about tobacco and industry marketing practices – without talking down to its target audience – truth has shaken up the image of smoking among teens.
But even though youth smoking levels are way down, there is still a lot of work to do. Truth’s “FinishIt” campaign is aimed at inspiring young people to end the tobacco epidemic for good. This latest phase focuses on non-cigarette forms of tobacco like hookah, small cigars and e-cigarettes. They are becoming more popular among teens because of their fruity flavors. The prevention campaign focuses on education and positioning the goal as something teens can truly impact. It asks them to take action and enlist their friends.
Kids Kick Tobacco’s Butt
For the last 21 years, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has led the organization of Kick Butts Day. This national day of activism is aimed at empowering youth and teens to stand up against big tobacco. Schools and communities across the country plan events that highlight the toll tobacco takes on health, the economy and politics. This year’s Kick Butts Day is March 17 and organizers expect more than 1,000 events will take place.
The campaign encourages youth and teens to share how they’re advocating to end tobacco use with the #ikickbutts photo generator and hashtag.
Have you seen any other great anti-smoking campaigns lately? Share in the comments below!