The latest anti-tobacco campaign is trying a new approach, one that tobacco companies have been utilizing for decades to recruit new customers: producing ads for a specific target population. In the campaign, titled Fresh Empire, the FDA is trying to harness hip-hop “sound, style, and swagger” to reach minority black and Hispanic teens, who disproportionately suffer from the consequences of smoking. The campaign features videos with community role models, dancers, DJs, beat-boxers, and rappers, promoting the message that “you can be hip-hop and tobacco free.”
Despite fears that the campaign would be corny and forced, initial feedback from youth is positive. The $128 million dollar campaign, paid for by tobacco industry fees, is based on research showing that youth exposed to targeted messages were more likely to respond favorably to the message. The campaign differs from older campaigns, which took a more generalized, one-size-fits-all approach. It also parallels new FDA regulations on e-cigarettes that have been targeting teen tobacco use, limiting e-cigarette marketing and sales to those under 18.