Kids Rule in Pa. Ads

Teens help determine whether stores are complying with laws forbidding sales of tobacco products to kids in a new campaign for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The work, by Nei man Group, breaks on May 21 and includes three TV spots, radio, outdoor and direct mail. The ads warn retailers throughout Pennsylvania that teenage members of a statewide organization known as the Compliance Alliance will attempt to buy tobacco at stores; they also warn of potential penalties for such sales.

TV spots use a faux undercover approach, in which teen actors address the camera. In one spot, a boy whispers, “We’re from the Compliance Alliance, and we’re going to try to buy some ‘chew.’ So wish the [retailer] some luck.” A “hidden” camera shows the teen asking for chewing tobacco at the counter. When he and his friends emerge from the store, they lament that the counterman never asked for ID. All the spots end with the warning, “It’s illegal to sell to bacco to kids under 18 in Pennsylvania,” and indicate store owners could get “busted.”

Spending on the effort is about $7 million, according to Judy Ochs, a director at the department.

The campaign must decrease the non-compliance rate among state retailers from 27.9 percent to 20 percent by the time it is measured sometime later this year, said Ochs. Otherwise, she noted, the state could lose up to 40 percent—or $25 million—of federal funding for drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-prevention efforts. The department has worked with Harrisburg, Pa.-based Neiman since 1999.