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This past summer Florida's Department of Health released the findings of its annual statewide survey on youth tobacco use. The study found that since 1998 the percentage of youth using tobacco in the past 30 days had declined by 7.4 percentage points (from 18.5% to 11.1%) in middle school and 4.8 percentage points (from 27.4% to 22.6%) in high school.1 In this volume of the journal, Sly and colleagues report the results of media tracking surveys conducted in Florida and other states, which demonstrate significant increases for Florida youth in confirmed awareness of the “truth” campaign's advertising, and significant positive change among Florida youth in anti-tobacco attitudes and tobacco use susceptibility, compared to other states.2
“Truth”, the unconventional counter-marketing effort which helped bring about these results, had its origin in the 1997 settlement between the tobacco industry and the state of Florida. Understanding the importance of prevention, the legislature and the late governor, Lawton Chiles, earmarked a portion of settlement funding for the creation of a dedicated anti-tobacco counter-marketing effort with the sole focus of reducing youth prevalence. In early 1998 our advertising agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, was hired to manage the account and create anti-tobacco advertising targeted at youth.
In attributing successes or failures, it is often very difficult to isolate a single component that evidence points to being most responsible. The Florida programme is no different. To assist those involved in similar programmes, I have assembled the following overview of the key elements which collectively made “truth” successful.
Florida's settlement with the tobacco companies totalled $11.3 billion dollars and included provisions for the funding of a two year $200 million dollar youth anti-tobacco education and marketing programme. With the launch of “truth” in early 1998, Florida became the first state to use substantial settlement dollars …