Nearly 80% of all smokers begin before age 18 and nearly 90% of smokers begin before age 20. In addition, more than 3,200 young people try a cigarette for the first time every day. And the symptoms of nicotine addiction can begin in just a few weeks.

That's why we developed truth®; our largest public education effort to date. truth is a national youth tobacco prevention counter-marketing campaign with an advanced online/social media component and a strong youth following. It provides young people with facts and information about the health and social consequences of tobacco and the marketing tactics of the industry that sells it, so that they can make informed decisions about its use.

truth truck concert

Developed from extensive formative research with young people, the truth campaign presents its life-saving public health messages in the form of a brand that young people can affiliate with instead of tobacco brands. To give teens the opportunity to experience truth first-hand in their communities, the grassroots “truth tour” travels the country to connect with open-to-smoking youth in person and engage with them on a peer-to-peer level at concerts, sporting events, skateparks and other venues.

As the media landscape has changed, we have expanded truth’s reach by integrating an advanced online and social media component. These efforts extend and support the campaign’s traditional media messaging objectives, while appealing to young people’s demand for their information to be accessible, portable and linked to social networks. These mechanisms help build brand awareness, encourage social interaction and allow campaign messages to spread virally from peer-to-peer.

The campaign has had a direct impact on the nation’s health. Research has documented that truth’s messages resonate strongly with its teen target, including important racial/ethnic minority groups, and numerous studies have shown that exposure to the campaign is associated with changes in tobacco-related attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. In its first four years alone, truth is estimated to have prevented 450,000 youth from using tobacco. Findings suggest that truth messages may promote attitudinal and behavioral change in young adults as well.

truth tour

Furthermore, a cost-effectiveness study found that the campaign not only paid for itself in its first two years but also saved between $1.9 and $5.4 billion in medical care costs to society. The campaign has also been lauded by leading federal and state public health officials, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and former President George H.W. Bush. Most recently, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention included truth in its portfolio of effective programs.