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How to Get Our Teens to Stop Smoking? Tell Them It'll Make Them Look Old

Teenage hands holding cigarette
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

By now, we all know the myriad of downsides to smoking. Study after study has proven it causes cancer, increases heart disease and can even lead to strokes.

But despite all that cold, hard data out there, it just doesn't seem to be enough to deter today's kids—according to studies, some 10 million of them are currently smoking or are experimenting.

So if cancer risks won't scare them into quitting, what will? Well, the Food and Drug Administration is hoping that appealing to their vanity might. In a new campaign called The Real Cost, the FDA plans to focus on all the ways cigarettes ravage our looks—especially our skin.

The campaign, which allegedly has a price tag of a cool $115 million, will be a series of print ads and TV spots set to air on teen-centric channels like MTV. In the commercials, a young girl will apparently try to buy cigarettes without enough money. When she's told she needs to pay more, she scrapes off a layer of skin and hands it to the cashier, revealing a patch of wrinkles beneath. (Um, gross?)

Print ads will feature similar messages, with headlines stating, "See what your skin could look like," with a flap over a model's skin that can be lifted to show a wrinkly face (pictured, left).

Speaking with USA Today, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says that this is "one of the most important efforts in recent times in the effort to reduce youth smoking."

And big money is riding on it being a success. Myers says that the FDA has "carefully researched which ads will have the greatest impact on at-risk youth." In fact, they were designed with the "same scientific rigor that Madison Avenue uses to market its products."

Here's hoping they're on to something, since a startling 3,200 kids pick up a cigarette for the first time every day—and 700 of them become addicted.

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