• Article

Youth's Awareness of and Reactions to The Real Cost National Tobacco Public Education Campaign

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched its first tobacco-focused public education campaign, The Real Cost, aimed at reducing tobacco use among 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States. This study describes The Real Cost message strategy, implementation, and initial evaluation findings. The campaign was designed to encourage youth who had never smoked but are susceptible to trying cigarettes (susceptible nonsmokers) and youth who have previously experimented with smoking (experimenters) to reassess what they know about the 'costs' of tobacco use to their body and mind. The Real Cost aired on national television, online, radio, and other media channels, resulting in high awareness levels. Overall, 89.0% of U.S. youth were aware of at least one advertisement 6 to 8 months after campaign launch, and high levels of awareness were attained within the campaign's two targeted audiences: susceptible nonsmokers (90.5%) and experimenters (94.6%). Most youth consider The Real Cost advertising to be effective, based on assessments of ad perceived effectiveness (mean = 4.0 on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0). High levels of awareness and positive ad reactions are requisite proximal indicators of health behavioral change. Additional research is being conducted to assess whether potential shifts in population-level cognitions and/or behaviors are attributable to this campaign. Current findings demonstrate that The Real Cost has attained high levels of ad awareness which is a critical first step in achieving positive changes in tobacco-related attitudes and behaviors. These data can also be used to inform ongoing message and media strategies for The Real Cost and other U.S. youth tobacco prevention campaigns


Duke, J., Alexander, TN., Zhao, X., Delahanty, JC., Allen, J., MacMonegle, A., & Farrelly, M. (2015). Youth's Awareness of and Reactions to The Real Cost National Tobacco Public Education Campaign. PLoS One, 10(12), e0144827. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144827