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Anti-tobacco campaign targets youth who identify with hip-hop

October 09, 2015 FDA Fresh Empire campaign Silver Spring, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched a new $128 million campaign aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use among multicultural teens who identify with the hip-hop peer crowd.

While multicultural teens identify with many groups, the FDA said its new “Fresh Empire” campaign is focusing on hip-hop because this particular group is “often hard to reach and frequently exposed to pro-tobacco images and messages” and also because research estimates that this audience is more likely to use tobacco than others.

“Unfortunately, the health burdens of tobacco use disproportionately affect minority teens — particularly African American and Hispanic youth,” said Jonca Bull, M.D., assistant commissioner for minority health, FDA, in a press release. “ ‘The ‘Fresh Empire’ campaign will help reach teens at a key point in their lives when experimenting with smoking can lead to addiction.”

According to the release, the “Fresh Empire” campaign will target youth ages 12-17 and will launch the week of Oct. 12 in about 36 U.S. markets. The plan is for the campaign, which is funded by tobacco user fees, to run for a minimum of 24 months. National television ads will run for the first time in conjunction with the 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards on Oct. 13.

The ads are intended to deliver tobacco education in a manner that is straightforward and relevant to hip-hop youth who relate to values such as working hard to achieve success and attaining or regaining control. In addition to television outreach, the campaign includes local events featuring community influencers reinforcing that tobacco use is not a part of the hip-hop lifestyle. The FDA said the messaging will reflect hip-hop ideas such as “being authentic, powerful, confident, fashionable, creative and trendsetting.”

“We know from our research that remaining in control is an important pillar of hip-hop culture. But smoking represents a loss of control, so tobacco use is actually in conflict with that priority,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “The ‘Fresh Empire’ campaign underscores that important message to hip-hop youth, empowering this at-risk peer crowd to live tobacco free.”

Tobacco use is almost always initiated during adolescence, noted the FDA, and “close to 90 percent of established adult smokers smoked their first cigarette by age 18 — making early intervention critical.”

“Fresh Empire” is part of “The Real Cost”, the FDA’s ongoing general market at-risk youth education campaign, which launched in February 2014.

The ADA also has smoking cessation materials on the MouthHealthy website.