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California points out flavor deception for kids in the tobacco industry’s new products

Flavors Hook Kids campaign

The California Department of Public Health’s CA Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) is aiming to expose the tobacco industry’s latest deception of using flavors and e-cigarette products that masquerade as snacks and flash drives to hook kids when their brains are most susceptible to addiction.

‘Flavors Hook Kids’ by Duncan Channon helps inform parents that four out of five kids who’ve used tobacco started with a flavored product – with 15,000-plus flavors (and counting) on the market. The comprehensive campaign features television spots, radio, out-of-home (OOH) executions and a dedicated website to get the word out.

The concept is that kids are being drawn to these products because they mimic flavors that kids naturally love, like fruit candy, sugary cereals and juices. Three spots, ‘Donuts,’ ‘Banana’ and ‘Fruit Candy’ tap into emotion by contrasting the videos parents take of our kids enjoying flavors for the first time – with videos kids are now creating themselves to review vape products in those same flavors.

A second pair of TV spots, ‘Bedroom’ and ‘School,’ show innocuous teen conversations in bedrooms and school hallways before revealing that these kids have been using or talking about flavored vape products, all without the viewer noticing.

Sixteen out-of-home executions feature candy colors and striking images of teens with products from “the tobacco industry’s kids menu” that look like candy, breakfast cereal, popcorn, and a variety of backpack staples.

CTCP’s effort to change consumer perception of flavored tobacco comes on the heels of a recent FDA statement regarding the role of flavors in initiating youth into smoking and national headlines about how hard-to-spot vaping products like Juul have sparked an epidemic that’s spread under the noses of parents and educators. On April 24, the FDA announced new enforcement actions and a plan to stop youth use of, and access to, Juul and e-cigarettes.

What the agency is calling the country’s largest-ever campaign to take on flavored tobacco includes TV, digital video, radio, and OOH in all 14 markets across California. The campaign will include creative in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog produced with Acento and APartnership, as well as a San Francisco BART station takeover and two painted walls in Los Angeles.

‘Flavors Hook Kids’ is the first work by Duncan Channon for CTCP as part of a multi-year new business win for the agency, named the creative lead for a series of public education campaigns to prevent or reduce tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. The second campaign, slated to launch in summer 2018, will focus on the reality that many young adults who use tobacco socially don’t view themselves as smokers.

“Our kids are magical to us. We joyfully document their every moment as they try out the world for the first time, including what foods they love and don’t,” said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director, Duncan Channon. “And as they get older, we are still there cheering them on – though at arms’ length as most teens prefer – as we get glimpses into their new secret world as teens. Our creative reveals the disturbing truth that during these two critical times in our children’s lives, the tobacco companies are also watching and covertly applauding the power of flavor to attract and addict our kids to their products.

“In exposing how tobacco companies co-opt our kids’ love of flavors, we introduce the audience to another aspect of the flavor scam, the form factor. These products are designed to not look or smell like cigarettes, furthering the deception that they are harmless -- and allowing kids to indulge in flavored tobacco literally under the noses of adults, including those viewing the campaign,” added Elisco-Lemme.

To view the TV spots and out-of-home ads, please click on the Creative Works box below.

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