by Niyati Mehta
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US. And stats show that 9 out of 10 U.S. adult daily smokers pick their first cigarette before or by age 18, making youth prevention a critical interception point to spread the ‘no smoking’ message.
The narrative so far- The United States has been printing textual warning labels for cigarette packets since 1966. Over 100 countries across the globe use graphic image labels on cigarette packages – rotting teeth, diseased lungs, and facial scars are examples of images used as warnings to deter smokers. In 2018, a study was conducted by researchers at the Penn Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) at the Annenberg School for Communication. The study found that warning labels featuring photos of real smokers who were harmed by their habit are more effective in getting smokers to quit. But does this explicit and vivid approach work with young adults of an impressionable age? The American Lung Association believes peer pressure is one of the biggest causes of smoking in teens. Teenagers view smoking as a medium of rebellion and an attempt to appear ‘cool’. Are visuals and warning on cigarette packages enough to avert teenagers from smoking or are there more effective and creative methods?
Little Lungs in a Great Big World – an anti-smoking campaign with a difference!
A great example of anti-smoking campaigns targeting teens was ‘The Real Cost,’ campaign created for the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in 2017. Combining black humor with animation, the series showed a tobacco-tinged ‘Little Lungs’ character in a series of digital shorts. Little Lungs attempts to be cool and lead a normal teen life while his healthy lung friends around him are thwarted by his stunted growth as a smoker. It was viewed over 17 million times on YouTube, 8 million times on Facebook and Instagram, and the content received over 8.2 million social engagements with a 17% social engagement rate.
What makes the idea a winner – The Little Lungs campaign had a very insightful perspective – often teens beginning to smoke don’t think they’ll become addicted and don’t really care about the long-term health consequences of smoking. The campaign shows the ill effects of smoking here-and-now, such as stunted lungs and cosmetic health effects which are issues that teens actually care about.
NFK Nudge ideas to create awareness and prevent smoking in teens:
NFK ideas – make your teen understand the repercussion of smoking
View the Little Lungs Series here