FDA Parses 'the Real Cost' of Cigarettes in Creepy New Ads

You'll pay with anxiety, anger and insomnia

At an auction, how much would you bid to smoke through your teenage years? Would you be willing to pay for cigarettes with restless nights, anxiety, anger, irritability and fatigue? Would you trade your peace of mind for pack after pack after pack?

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and FCB New York pose such questions of teens a new PSA from their long-running "The Real Cost" anti-smoking campaign. Breaking this week, the work—which skews slightly off-kilter to make its point—seeks to show how nicotine withdrawal can negatively impact young lives.

That was mildly unnerving but eminently watchable—rocking a Stranger Things vibe while avoiding charred-lung scares and overwrought scenarios. Probably a wise creative choice, given the campaign's youthful audience across TikTok and Snapchat, where the work will run. Yann Demange directs with suitably creepy style.

A second spot, in much the same vein, skewers platitudes such as "I only do it with my friends," "Only while I'm young" and "My parents got hooked on cigs, but ... I definitely won't make their mistakes."

"Most young smokers live with the illusion that they can smoke casually and remain immune to the risks of nicotine addiction," says FCB ECD Gary Resch. "This campaign flips that illusion into disillusionment by using the regretful voices of older smokers who were similarly in denial when they themselves were teens."

"Gen Z is very willing to engage in conversations about their mental health, so to introduce them to the science about nicotine withdrawal, cigarette cravings and anxiety is likely to resonate with them in a meaningful way," adds Kathy Crosby, director of health education at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

Past notable efforts from the FDA-FCB team includes the animated "Little Lungs" series and a Marvel comic about the menace of vaping.


Agency: FCB New York

Gabriel Schmitt, Co-Chief Creative Officer
Michael Aimette, Co-Chief Creative Officer
Gary Resch, EVP, Executive Creative Director
Seth Kelly, SVP, Creative Director
James Meiser, Associate Creative Director

Scott Karambis, SVP, Group Strategy Director
Alison Smith, Senior Strategic Planner

Suzanne Santiago, EVP, Managing Director
Dimas Adiwiyoto, SVP, Group Account Director
Colin Ferguson, Account Director
Jared Shell, VP, Account Director
Natalie Costa, Management Supervisor
Sammie McCormick, Account Supervisor

Kelly Fagan, Executive Producer
Frances Edwards, Senior Producer
Janice Katz, Director of Business Affairs

Project Management
Nick King, Associate Program Director
Samantha Sam, Senior Project Manager

Mary Day, VP, Editorial Director  
Barbara Norton, Editorial Proofreader

Editorial – Cartel
Graham Chisolm, Editor
Adam Robinson, Editor
Andrea Norby, Assistant Editor
Caylee Banz, Producer
Lauren Bleiweiss, EP, Managing Director

Production – RESET Content
Yann Demange, Director
Dave Morrison, Managing Director
Jen Beitler, Executive Producer
Michael Garza, Executive Producer
John Moran, Head of Production
James Graves, Producer
Dana Palombi Marcus, Production Supervisor

Music – JSM
Joel Simon, CEO/CCO
Jeff Fiorello, VP, Executive Producer 

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