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FDA's new anti-smoking campaign uses hip-hop to target youth

Published:Tuesday | October 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The Food and Drug Administration will try to adapt the sounds, style and attitudes of hip hop into a multimillion-dollar anti-smoking campaign to discourage young African Americans, Hispanics and other groups from using tobacco.

The federal agency said yesterday it will spend US$128 million on advertising, events and local outreach as part of the 'Fresh Empire' campaign, which aims to curb the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products among minority teenagers.

FDA officials say research shows young people who identify with hip hop are more likely to smoke than their peers.

To be sure, hip hop's origins as an anti-establishment urban movement would seem to conflict with the federal government's buttoned-down image. But FDA officials say they can convincingly pitch their message to hip-hop fans.

"We know from our research that remaining in control is an important pillar of hip-hop culture. But smoking represents a loss of control, so tobacco use is actually in conflict with that priority," said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco 'Truth' campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation in the early 2000s, said the new campaign is aimed at "empowering this at-risk peer crowd to live tobacco free".