“Something is taking control of the students!” reads the animated cover of “The Mind Control Menace,” an illustrated adventure from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Developed with Marvel creative lead Darren Sanchez, the narration is set in a high school and illustrates vaping teens as being zombified, “.. those who were affected followed the same routine. Had the same personality. At least at first.”

However, after some time the heroes in 16-page comic book observe that vaping students “seemed off. They weren’t quite the same … like the entire town was distracted, slightly out of step.”

“The target audience is anyone between 12 and 21 whose thumb would stop scrolling at the first sight of a Marvel-style illustration,” said FCB executive creative director Gary Resch as quoted by Muse. “Teens have a diner-sized menu of diversion, so you really have to entertain them on their terms. Marvel has earned their confidence that a good story is about to be told.”

The Real Cost Campaign

The Real Cost Campaign was launched in 2018. A year earlier, in August 2017, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, had stated that the agency’s new tobacco plan would support product innovation so that smokers would be able to obtain the nicotine they crave, without the added carcinogens derived from the combustion of tobacco.

“We’ve opened up a pathway to new product innovations that we think can potentially provide nicotine to people who still want to enjoy satisfying levels of nicotine,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb in an interview at the time.

However, despite this and the significant amount of studies in favour of e-cigarettes as harm reduction tools, the following October, the agency had proceeded to announce that it would be expanding its teen anti-smoking campaign, “The Real Cost” to include vaping.

On announcing the campaign, the FDA Commissioner had explained that anti-vaping adverts would be placed on social media and in spaces where adolescents spend time, and they would direct teens to the campaign’s website.

An “irreverent” campaign

The unusual campaign, which FDA officials have described as “irreverent,” was launched last Tuesday. The message put across is one saying that while e-cigarettes deliver addictive nicotine, the toxins in the devices could have unexpected health effects.

“We are acting on very clear science that there’s an epidemic on the way,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. “We’re in possession of data that shows a disturbingly sharp rise in the number of teens using e-cigarettes in just the last year.”

US: The 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey Indicates a Drop in Teen Vaping

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