This New Truth Initiative Study Shows the Effectiveness of Antismoking Ads

Nonprofit and AOR 72andSunny estimate they prevented over 300,000 teens from smoking

Almost all adult smokers say they started by the age of 26. Truth Initiative
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A new study released today by the Truth Initiative shows that its campaign efforts to reduce smoking in the U.S. are working.

According to the study, which was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, U.S. teens and young adults aged 15 to 21 reported that they smoked less and were less likely to take up habitual smoking after being regularly exposed to Truth campaigns over a 12-month time period. The age is important considering 99 percent of adult smokers say they started by the age of 26, according to Truth.

The report estimated that through the ads, Truth and creative agency 72andSunny prevented approximately 301,930 Americans in this age group from becoming smokers during the 2015 to 2016 year. The nonprofit said these results suggest strong branding and strategic ad placement—with the focus being on digital and social, the most relevant platforms for this all-important young audience.

“We are proud that this once again confirms the power of the truth campaign to create social change and save lives,” said Truth CEO and president Robin Koval. “We’re inspiring young people to end the smoking epidemic for good, and we’ve done that by exposing the tactics of the tobacco industry.”

Recent work from Truth and 72andSunny include “Business or Exploitation?”—a series of primarily online videos and posts explaining how big tobacco companies target African Americans, low-income communities, LGBTQ people, members of the U.S. Military and those dealing with mental health disorders.

Truth has also begun dropping social media PSAs (like the one below) to alert young audiences to the big tobacco industry’s recent “corrective statements,” which Koval told Adweek in an earlier interview were designed so “no one would see.”

The study itself comes on the heels of these ads from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Altria and its Philip Morris USA subsidiary. The companies were originally ordered by a federal judge in 2006 to release statements—which consist of laundry lists of facts on the dangers of smoking, recited with no imagery or hint of emotion—on prime-time television and in print newspapers.

After more than a decade of legal battles, R.J., Altria and Philip Morris finally got the ads out last month—in the aforementioned traditional forms that miss the majority of young Americans.

The ads were intended to counter some of the deceptive messaging the tobacco industry has communicated to American consumers for over 50 years, like downplaying the risks of smoking and not disclosing that cigarettes are designed to be highly addictive.

Truth estimated in a statement tied to the study that the tobacco industry spends $8 billion a year in the U.S. alone to market its products. The corrective statements are a mere sliver of that ad spend, according to Koval, making the efforts by Truth and 72andSunny that much more critical.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.