How the Truth Initiative evolved to face today's new demons

The anti-smoking organization is tackling some new foes.

As CMO of the Truth Initiative, Eric Ashe’s goal is to basically put himself out of a job by stamping out cigarettes in the U.S., but new challenges, such as opioids and vaping, have ensured that he'll be employed for a lot longer. 

Vaping, in particular, is of top concern for the Truth Initiative, which has a goal of creating a tobacco-free generation.

E-cigarettes have often been touted as a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes, and while that may hold truth, it doesn’t mean they are completely harmless. 

"We decided to use the fact that we don’t know what the long term effect of vaping is, we don't know what's in this ingredient, to our advantage," Asche said, speaking at ANA’s Masters of Marketing Week in Orlando. 

"Tobacco is easy, if you use it as directed it will kill you. With vaping it’s much more of a gray area," he said. 

The fact that the totality of the danger of vaping is unknown means that it can be difficult to craft effective campaigns combating it, but Truth simply used that lack of knowledge to its advantage.

One campaign features anthropomorphic creatures all claiming that those who do vape are basically lab rats, as they don’t really know what they’re ingesting.

The Truth Initiative has also geared up to face the worsening opioid crisis sweeping the nation.

According to Asche, these new problems affecting a new generation also require new tactics. 

"For this new generation, we have to unleash the power of radical candor, not sugar coat what’s going on, not pretend that it’s worse than it is, but to tell the truth."

To do that, one campaign focused on a singular person, Rebekkah, and filmed her detox over the course of five days and displayed it on a cube screen in the middle of New York City. 

"We wanted to show that this is what addiction looks like," Asche said. 

The organization's messaging has also found humor in its work by tapping into meme culture, with a campaign focusing on the increased risk of ED due to smoking combustible cigarettes with a song aptly called ‘twinkle twinkle little (dick),’ which aired on Snapchat and other media outlets last year. 

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