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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will spend about $600 million over five years on a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco, the Associated Press reports.

The first part of the campaign will target groups including youth, minorities, the military, the gay community and people with disabilities, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told the AP. The campaign will include ads on TV and in print, and will use social media including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Deyton said the FDA hopes to reduce the smoking rate in the United States, which has been stalled at about 20 percent since 2004. “One of the big lessons that I’ve learned is that we might have great public health programs, but they will fail if we do not adequately educate the public about them,” he said.

The campaign will be paid for through fees the FDA is charging tobacco companies. Fees are collected based on each company’s share of the U.S. tobacco market. They were imposed as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The FDA hopes the first campaign will appear at the same time as the new warning labels on cigarette packs in the fall of 2012. The labels will carry graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth.

Last month, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health announced they will study the effect of new tobacco regulations on the health and behavior of smokers and potential smokers. The study will include 40,000 people ages 12 and up.


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