Public health value and cost savings resulting from the US FDA’s youth smoking prevention campaign | Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D



One of the most important ways the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can reduce the disease and death caused by tobacco use is by preventing current and future generations of kids from starting down a path of a lifelong addiction to tobacco. This work includes exploring clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive; enforcing federal youth access restrictions; and educating our nation’s youth about the dangers of tobacco use.

As part of the agency’s comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation announced last summer, we’re taking steps toward a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction – making it harder for future generations to become addicted in the first place and allowing more currently addicted smokers to quit. While we explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimally- or non-addictive levels, we are also continuing to invest heavily in our award-winning public education campaigns.

The Real Cost” campaign, launched by the FDA in February 2014 to educate at-risk teens about the harmful effects of tobacco use, has proven to be successful by preventing nearly 350,000 youth nationwide from initiating smoking from 2014 to 2016, an estimated half of whom might have gone on to become established smokers. Preventing at-risk youth from smoking can lead to lower rates of smoking-related disease and death in the future and decreased health care costs, which is not only critical to every teen who does not become an addicted smoker, but is also beneficial to public health.

Today, the results of an analysis about the cost effectiveness of “The Real Cost” campaign were published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “The Real Cost” has resulted in savings of more than $31 billion for youth, their families and society at large by reducing smoking-related costs like early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity and increased disability – that’s $181,000 saved for each of the 175,000 youth that would likely have become an established smoker.

By preventing these youth from becoming established smokers, the campaign saved $128 for every dollar of the nearly $250 million invested in the first two years of the effort. These results not only highlight the importance of investing in tobacco-related education campaigns, but also reinforce the importance of our public education efforts in reducing the public health and financial burden of tobacco use.

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