State launches anti-smoking quack attack
AUSTIN â€“ Hip-hop music plays. A smooth-talking animated duck disses a stressed-out smoker.
"Tobacco is foul," says the rebellious duck, definitely a bird with an attitude.
It's the centerpiece of the state's new youth anti-smoking campaign â€“ the first to be paid for by some of Texas' $17.3 billion tobacco settlement money â€“ that debuts Monday.
Teenagers from across the state who were recruited to help create the $2 million anti-smoking campaign selected the duck mascot.
The advertising and public relations effort is part of a pilot project targeting parts of East Texas that the Texas Department of Health will oversee. The initiative is aimed mostly at people between 11 and 18, with a particular emphasis on sixth- through eighth-graders.
Hence, the hip-talking duck.
"It will be hard-hitting, realistic, timely and speak to kids in a language they can relate to," said Dr. Phil Huang, chief of the health department's bureau of disease, injury and tobacco prevention.
Statewide research has shown that sixth-graders are at the highest risk of starting to use tobacco, Dr. Huang said.
The anti-tobacco campaign is intended to have a special focus on Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American youths.
Speaking in English and Spanish, the duck will be featured in television, radio and billboard ads in four media markets: Houston-Galveston, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Tyler-Longview and Bryan-College Station.
The animated character also can be found on the campaign's interactive Web site, at www.ducktexas.com, and in magazine and newspaper ads.
The bird uses teenage slang, "Yo!" and "Hell-OOO!"
The cartoon mascot emerged from a workshop in July that 100 teens attended at Lake Conroe.
"They love animation. They told us what they wanted this duck character to be like. They wanted him to be cool. They wanted him to have a personality. They didn't want him to preach," said Kevin Tuerff, president of Tuerff-Davis EnviroMedia, the Austin firm hired by the health department to orchestrate the ad campaign.
Youths helping with the ad campaign are attempting to turn the tables on tobacco manufacturers, who have used cartoon characters in the past to promote their products, Mr. Tuerff said.
In addition to the paid ads, the duck will be featured at rallies, community programs and other grass-roots outreach events that will culminate the week of Nov. 12-18 with dozens of local activities.
The anti-tobacco youth campaign is part of a $10 million annual state fund designated for smoking prevention media efforts.
It comes from the $17.3 billion settlement Texas reached with big tobacco in 1998 after the state sued seeking to cover the costs of treating sick smokers. The settlement money, to be paid over 25 years, is earmarked for a variety of long-term and short-term health programs.
Successful aspects of the youth ad pilot program are expected to be copied in a statewide initiative in 2001, Dr. Huang said.