Here’s an exciting report for all those interested (really interested) in preventing teenagers damaging their health. America’s largest youth anti-smoking campaign, truth®, is likely to have prevented 450,000 adolescents from initiating smoking, according to a study by researchers at RTI International. Did you get that? The campaign was about “truth” and it was aimed at persuading teenagers not to start on their first cigarette.

Holy smoke! Didn’t they try that with sex education and most of the experts complained that it didn’t work, and couldn’t work and was not worth the $50 million to $100m a year spent on “abstinence only” programmes by the federal government plus a smaller share from states?

But it seems that teenagers can say no to some things and save themselves and the country a lot of pain. The American Legacy Foundation, which launched the truth® campaign in 2000, spent $245 million on television advertising to the end of 2004, and another $80m or so evaluating it. For every $544 spent, one less adolescent (15 to 24-year-old) began smoking. That would avert health care costs of about $1.9 billion, say the authors of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, making it cost effective to society.

An interesting aspect of truth® (don’t you love that brand?) is its aim of capitalising on “the desire of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 to be rebellious and independent”. There must be quite a few out there who would take the bait of trashing the older generation’s self-indulgent and unhealthy sexual ethic, if the case was put like that. ~ Newswise, Feb 12

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet