In the U.S., vaping is all the rage. It has become so common among youngsters that the newfangled bad habit has recently been called an epidemic. In an attempt to fight the spread of e-cigarettes, the FDA launched a campaign called the Real Cost, and its recent sci-fi-inspired ad is now deemed controversial by many.Now that fewer teenagers smoke conventional cigarettes, they have another way of showcasing their conformity with the values shared by their peers: vaping is becoming more and more popular, with more than 10.7 million teens already hooked. Despite the growing evidence of vaping being dangerous and having a wide range of negative effects on health, it appears that 80% of youngsters are unaware of the potential danger. They believe it’s just flavored vapor with no possibility of profound harm, but the real cost is different. This is just the message the FDA wants to convey by means of its eponymous campaign aimed at teenagers aged 12 to 17, who are liable to face the pressure to try vaping at school – if everyone is doing something, it is extremely difficult for a young person to manage not to succumb to the temptation to show you are as cool as others.
Spreading epidemicThe new FDA-produced ad is creepy. It shows how alien-like worms attack teens who indulge in vaping and unknowingly do harm to their bodies. The 30-sec video was designed to discourage youngsters from vaping, but as social feedback suggests, it is more likely to actually make them want to try it. The blood teeming with disgusting worms, the lungs being inhabited by thousands of them, and the brain being eaten are not pleasant things to look at, but the thing is that sci-fi usually appeals to young people. The teens depicted are clean-cut, they are fit and neatly dressed, they do sports and enjoy themselves – the very fact that their bodies change at the drop of a hat right after inhaling e-cig vapors makes them look cool, not scary, from a teen’s perspective. The ad says the epidemic is not due to a virus, and neither is it an infection – vaping is to blame for the dangers that lurk in vapors. But teens are more likely to try things that look dangerous, especially if they are demonstrated using high-quality visuals. How can it be a deterrent if it fits the image of a cool thing? To get these scar-like marks and veins that appear as if they are inspired by some Marvel superhero, all you have to do is to inhale vapor with a variety of magnificent flavors. It’s just the opposite of the ad’s purpose.
Will it work?Perhaps it will. The anti-drug campaign with similar-style videos that was popular in the 90s proved to have at least some positive effect. But it is unknown whether teens will get the message. More ads will be installed in schools and other public places, but it is parents who are responsible for teaching their offspring what is good and what is not. Simply prohibiting is not going to work, since most teens can’t stand being forced to drop a habit, which results in the opposite. Instead, practice what you preach. Don’t indulge in conventional cigarettes, e-cigs, alcohol, weed and other things that can damage your health. If your child does not have a bad model, it will be much harder to develop their own one. If you do not do it yourself, chances are children will believe you. Don’t be afraid of talking to your child. Ask him or her about vaping, voice your concerns, and explain why it is bad and how it upsets you. It is only through mutual trust that you can avoid addiction in the family.
The Real Cost Campaign – fda.gov