If you thought the days of tobacco companies appealing to teens were long gone, Duncan Channon and the California Department of Public Health’s CA Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) have a wake-up call for you.
A new campaign entitled “Flavors Hook Kids,” which the agency claims is the largest effort to date targeting flavored tobacco products in the country, will run on broadcast, digital video, radio and out-of-home (OOH) across all 14 markets in California.
The campaign’s launch happens to coincide with an FDA announcement on new enforcement actions as part of its Youth Tobacco Prevention Program targeting the use of e-cigarettes, including examining youth appeal of Juul, foreclosing online sales of Juul to minors and a request for information sent to Juul Labs.
“The troubling reality is that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes have become wildly popular with kids,” the department said in a statement. “We understand, by all accounts, many of them may be using products that closely resemble a USB flash drive, have high levels of nicotine and emissions that are hard to see. These characteristics may facilitate youth use, by making the products more attractive to children and teens.”
“For an industry that is so focused on youth, ways that we can market to youth, I think it’s equally important that we’re paying attention to protecting them as well,” Duncan Channon executive creative director Anne Elisco-Lemme told Adweek.
A trio of broadcast spots focus on parents documenting their children’s first exposure to new flavors. These very same flavors, from donuts to bananas, the ad shows, are then used to hook teens on vaping.
Elisco-Lemme said the campaign’s approach stemmed from “the realization that the tobacco industry is still laser-focused on teens and youth … The broadcast work that deals with parents lovingly watching kids learn about flavors came out of the same insights.”
Another pair of spots take a more subtle approach, highlighting how easy it is to miss the signs that teens may be getting into tobacco through vaping–and how easy it is for them to acquire and hide their use of such products.
“Bedroom” shows two girls casually talking about a crush while one of them is sitting in front of a laptop. She then pulls out a vape pen that looks almost exactly like a USB flash drive, showing how easy it is for teens to disguise their use of such products.
“School” shows a group of three friends talking over flavors such as Brain Freeze and Sour Gummy Worms, ending by driving home how easy it is for teens to purchase tobacco products online.
Elisco-Lemme explained that the tobacco industry is well-aware that teens are mostly uninterested in cigarettes.
“They are interested in things that look cool, interesting tech, things that can pass underneath the noses of parents and teachers, because they don’t look, smell or taste like a cigarette,” she said, “fueling their rebellions as well. Kids are so smart about how to get a hold of these products.”
The campaign also includes 16 OOH ads, highlighting “The tobacco industry’s kids menu” with candy coloring highlighting flavors such as “Unicorn Poop.” Other OOH ads showcase e-cigarette products that disguise themselves as innocent items such as flash drives and hot sauce bottles.
Elisco-Lemme said the pro-vaping community are defending the use of flavors, claiming they aren’t targeted at children and adults should have access to products they claim are safer than cigarettes.
“When you look at flavors like Unicorn Poop and Dragon Blood … all the other kid flavors they are imitating, that whole thing falls apart. They are trying to speak to the public in a way that makes them victims of the work that we’re doing,” she told Adweek. “There’s no amount of justification in the world when you look at what’s happening with the youth right now, the massive uptick in use of flavored tobacco products.”