NATO Fights FDA Commercials Depicting C-Stores Selling Cigarettes To Minors

cigarettes_ryo_productsNATO urges FDA to focus campaigns toward “social sources” that provide cigarettes to under-aged smokers.

The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 7, requesting that the agency immediately remove two commercials from the agency’s “The Real Cost” television commercial campaign, that it called “offensive.”

It further asked that FDA delete these two commercials and the commercial highlight videos from the YouTube Website, and forego any other distribution of these two television advertisements.

On Feb. 4, the FDA held a press conference announcing a $115 million multimedia advertising campaign targeting at-risk youth ages 12-17 who are already smoking cigarettes or may be disposed to start smoking cigarettes. This campaign is called “The Real Cost” and includes television commercials, radio commercials, print advertisements and on-line ads.

The two commercials from the campaign that NATO objects to about are titled “Your Teeth/Your Teeth Menthol” and “Your Skin/Your Skin Menthol” and  both depict a convenience store clerk selling a pack of cigarettes to a girl and a boy without the store clerk checking their photo identification to verify legal age and accepting a piece of the girl’s facial skin and an extracted molar from the boy as part “payment” for the pack of cigarettes.

NATO pointed out that these commercials are a false portrayal of a real world transaction involving the sale of a pack of cigarettes and are offensive to the retail industry. “These commercials have crossed an ethical line where the FDA, in its pursuit of the agency’s goal to reduce underage tobacco use, disregards not only the truth, but also compliance with federal law,” NATO reported.

NATO requested that the FDA respond to the association’s letter by the close of business on Monday, Feb. 10, the day before these commercials are scheduled to begin airing on television.

NATO also sent a letter to Kathleen Crosby, the Director of the FDA’s Office of Health Communication and Education, to create a similar media campaign aimed at educating those individuals that act as “social sources” to no longer participate in supplying underage youth with tobacco products. NATO explained that social sources include friends, adult age siblings, parents, and even strangers who legally purchase tobacco products and then provide them to youth who are not of legal age.

NATO noted in its letter to the FDA that social sources are perpetuating the ability of youth to have access to tobacco products and are hindering further success in reducing the rate of underage youth tobacco use. Since the FDA has not concentrated on the “social sources” problem, creating an education campaign to discourage others from supplying minors with tobacco products should help reduce the underage youth rate of tobacco use, NATO reported.

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