Vape at your own risk, warns new PSA

'The fact that 80% of those hospital patients are under 35-years-old is terrifying.'

Vaping, once seen as a safer alternative to cigarettes, has become a public health crisis that is directly threatening the lives of young adults.

This is the message from the California Department of Public Health’s CA Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) in its new "Outbreak" PSA created by Duncan Channon on the heels of California governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order -- which includes a $20M investment for the country’s first public awareness campaign to educate teens, young adults and parents on this issue. 

The growing vaping crisis, which has so far sickened 1,604 and killed 34, began this summer and quickly spread throughout the U.S., worrying parents and authorities due to the overabundance of young people who have picked up vaping. 

Several states have already banned the sales of flavored e-cigarettes, while the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has already begun seeking a blanket ban on them. 

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aren’t entirely sure what ingredient is behind the rash of lung illnesses but have noted that most victims have used e-cigarettes containing illicit THC-containing products.

The fact that no one is quite sure about the cause is a focal point of one of the CTCP’s ads, which begins innocuously in black and white, showing young people vaping as they enjoy life’s moments until a jarring shift to color and a young person being wheeled along on a gurney show the reality of what can occur to those who continue to vape. 

The PSA is a bold one, and the first to directly state that vaping can have serious consequences. 

The Truth Initiative recently launched a PSA that focused on the mystery ingredient aspect of the e-cigarette market, but the organization’s CMO Eric Ashe, noted that due to the fact that vaping has for the most part been healthier than cigarettes it has been much more difficult to advocate against while also discouraging the use of traditional tobacco cigarettes. 

"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 CTCP has no such qualms about attacking vaping directly, saying in a statement: "while life-threatening consequences of smoking cigarettes typically reveal themselves decades later, this spot aims to jolt parents to attention about the short-term health consequences of vaping among teens."

According to the agency, "outbreak" is the country’s first-ever campaign to take on this public health crisis, which Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director at Duncan Channon has a personal stake in.

"As a mother of two teen boys, the fact that 80 percent of those hospital patients are under 35-years-old is terrifying," she said.

"That’s why the teams at CTCP and Duncan Channon threw their hearts into this even with the challenge of creating spots in less than three weeks."

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