The truth is that cigarette smoking among youth and teens has dramatically reduced in the past generation, from 23% among teens in 2000 to a current level of six percent. A significant factor in that reduction is Truth Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that provides targeted messages via TV commercials, print campaigns, social media and alliances with other organizations and networks to reach young people who might be tempted to take up the habit.
To continue the organization’s mission by providing information and media, Truth Initiative will have a presence in the GRAMMY Gift Lounge at this year’s Feb. 12 GRAMMY Awards telecast from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Truth Initiative was previously known as The American Legacy Foundation, which was created in the late ‘90s and funded by major tobacco companies as part of a 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. In 2015, the name was changed to Truth Initiative to reflect the impact the organization hopes to achieve in discrediting tobacco ad campaigns.
This year, the organization is partnering with the GRAMMYs in an effort to reach more young people, who often look to music artists as role models and icons. The “Finish It” ad campaign, which currently airs on television and online, will have a significant presence during the airing of the GRAMMY telecast. This campaign is intended to urge the current generation to be the force that halts tobacco use entirely.
“As adults, we know we should get our flu shots, as a preventative measure,” says CMO of Truth Initiative Eric Asche. “The value proposition isn’t always so clear to a 17-year-old.”
Education and information is the goal of Truth Initiative, according to Asche, and the association with the GRAMMY Awards will increase the reach of the movement. “The GRAMMYs pull in large numbers of viewers, and what we have been working toward over the years is to build our message through a cultural lens.”
Although Asche notes that teens don’t watch the GRAMMYs in large numbers, he credits the trickle-down effect: “A platform such as the GRAMMYs creates a bedrock for cultural conversation.” The organization has previously worked with MTV and Vans/Warped Tour to reach out to young people who might be at risk for starting the habit of smoking cigarettes.
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“The GRAMMY Awards is also a launching pad for a conversation regarding social justice, and among the conversations about the outfits, the winners, there will be conversations about our advertisement. We will use this as a conversation starter,” says Asche. “When you look at the history of tobacco marketing, there is a targeting of certain populations. When we consider the large tune-in factor of the GRAMMYs, it is a great launching pad to begin conversations.”
“Millennials and centennials are the most enlightened,” as to how damaging cigarette smoking is, according to Asche. “We are building a brand and curating a brand,” he continues. “We want to win back every street corner, to win back that market share” of youth who are often tempted by the easy access to tobacco products, and perhaps tempted by others to purchase and use them.
For more information, visit Truthinitiative.org.