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Why Do Teens Care About Anti-Tobacco Advertising?

By Jeff Tarakajian, EVP, Group Management Director, FCB Garfinkel 

Actually teens don’t care about it. In fact, telling them not to do something is probably the least effective approach we could take.

The early teenage years are a time when teens are transitioning from the world of childhood to the world of adulthood. This is when they sample adult behaviors, products, and experiences and use them to shape their own identities. It is how they determine who they want to be, the people they want to hang out with, the activities that they are passionate about, and the causes they believe in and want to become advocates of. It is a time of experimentation.

One of our assignments with the FDA Center for Tobacco Products is to “educate” teens who are experimenting with smoking and/or who are at risk for trying tobacco. Education means informing them about the consequences of tobacco use that are relevant to them right now…not decades into the future – so that they can make up their own minds.

Why is this important?

Because the scientific literature shows that nearly 90% of adult smokers begin as teens. If we can stop teens from ever starting to smoke, we can stop them from becoming adult smokers and, if successful, we could completely wipe out the death, disease and damage caused by tobacco. In fact, despite the reality that smoking is at an all-time low – in 2013 only 15.7% of adults smoked – tobacco remains the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. This is our opportunity and this is the cause that the FCB Garfinkel team working on FDA is personally passionate about.

Quinn Schwellinger (Assistant Account Executive): “I believe that my work should have a clear purpose…It is invigorating to know that I am positively affecting the lives of millions….”

Mark Hall (VP, Account Director): “All of our FDA campaigns are personally rewarding…they allow me to drive a positive change in society by reducing the number of people who struggle with tobacco-related health consequences later in life. We don’t often have the opportunity to ‘do good’ by doing what we do every day.”

Jane Picarelli (Assistant Account Executive): “Working on The Real Cost campaign has allowed me to help out my younger teen cousins and their friends by giving them advice that I learned…about making smart decisions about tobacco products…When I leave the office after a long day, I have high self-esteem because I believe that The Real Cost campaign can change younger generations forever.”

Jeff Tarakajian (EVP, Group Management Director): “We not only get to do great work, we get to do great work that will make a real difference for the next generation of Americans, by giving them facts about smoking and how it affects them now…not just years down the road.”