Health Press Releases Videos — 05 March 2011

“Unsweetened truth” Campaign Asks “Why Do They Make Tobacco Taste Sweet?”

Living with tobacco-related diseases and the devastating effects of tobacco use take center stage in the latest creative from truth®, the nation’s largest smoking prevention campaign for youth.

While the American public may commonly connect tobacco use with often fatal diseases such as lung cancer and heart attacks, an estimated 8.6 million people in the United States are living with serious illnesses attributed to smoking. For many, it means suffering on a daily basis, and drastic changes from their pre-disease lifestyles.

“Unsweetened truth” is a new commercial from truth, vividly illustrating the impact of smoking on health. In the spot, six real people suffering from tobacco-related disabilities are featured on a parade float traveling through the heart of Hollywood. As the float travels along, spectators can see the obvious physical disabilities each person is living with. They can also hear the half-dozen participants “singing” a tune about the many different flavors used to enhance tobacco products.

The spot highlights a new fact: “Tobacco companies can’t sell candy-flavored cigarettes, but they still sell other tobacco products in over 45 candy flavors.” With this spot, truth seeks to highlight how living with tobacco-related diseases is not just about dying; having such diseases is also about living with the effects of cancers of the mouth, throat and neck; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); emphysema; and loss of voice. Moreover, anyone who uses tobacco has the potential to develop such diseases.

“For the featured participants in the ‘Unsweetened truth’ spot, their lives have been changed irrevocably by tobacco use,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH., president and CEO of Legacy, the national public health foundation that directs and funds the truth campaign. “While the consequences of tobacco-related disease can sometimes be obvious in their physical form, the suffering associated with tobacco use goes deeper than that. For some, tobacco use has meant lost jobs, or lost employment prospects. For some, everyday activities like eating and enjoying food, being physically active, or spending quality time with friends and family is an ongoing challenge.”

Thomas Cook, 51, is one of the participants in the campaign. Cook previously appeared in the Emmy-nominated truth commercial, “Singing Cowboy,” in 2006. Images of Tom singing the words “you don’t always die from tobacco…” with an electronic voice box generated keen interest on YouTube and propelled the ad to iconic status. Cook started smoking at age 13 and was diagnosed at 38 with Stage IV larynx cancer.

“When you get sick from using tobacco, your whole life changes. Things will never and can never be the same. Not one day goes by that I don’t think about cancer. All I have to do is look in the mirror and there it is,” said Cook.

Four of the featured participants can no longer work in their chosen fields or find full employment, due to physical disabilities. One gave up on his dreams of playing college baseball, after being diagnosed with cancer at age 17. Another cast member has severe physical limitations that impair his mobility and lifestyle.

Tom’s stories and the stories of other participants in the ad will be shown online through a series of video vignettes, and extended through mobile functions. The campaign will run from late February through June, in cinema, and via targeted online and mobile initiatives.


The 30-second cinema advertisement is the cornerstone of the campaign. In the spot, six real people from across the country travel on a colorful parade float through the heart of Hollywood, on the fabled corner of Hollywood and Highland. As the parade float comes into the line of sight of tourists and others on the busy thoroughfare, the physical disabilities of the half-dozen parade participants come to life. Spectators gape as they see singers with holes in their throats (from laryngectomies), one singer who must function with a breathing apparatus, and several with facial deformities resulting from operations to the throat, jaw and neck areas. The people on the float sing about how tobacco companies make products that come in more than 45 different candy flavors, from berry blend to sour apple to wintergreen.

The cinema commercial will be supported by a new website design and social networking profiles. The website,, will feature applications that allow teens to interact with each other and share information related to tobacco and truth®.

A series of video vignettes will allow viewers to learn more about the participants in the commercial. Each of the videos offers a day in the life look at what it is like to live on a daily basis with debilitating tobacco-related disabilities. Anchored at, the video vignettes will also be available through truth’s other social site pages like:


Online banners and custom integrations will be featured on websites like Ology, WeeWorld, myYearbook, UGO and Addicting Games.

According to April 2010 data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 75 percent of 12-17 year olds now own cell phones, and 72 percent of all teens regularly send text messages. truth is increasingly boosting its presence in the mobile space to ensure the campaign is regularly part of the conversation between teens. Through its mobile WAP page, truth now offers cell phone users the chance to play mobile games and learn more about the campaign.

Games: Two truth-related games are currently active for mobile users. A third game, “Night of the Gummis” will go live in mid-March. The game continues the candy-theme of the Unsweetened truth campaign, tying back to a tobacco-related fact relating to Gummi Bears candies.

Unsweetened truth will be featured in several mobile platforms:

Flixster – Flixster is a social movie site that allows users to share movie ratings, discover new movies, and connect with fellow movie lovers. truth will feature video pre-roll and games through Flixster’s popular mobile application.

Tapulous – iPhone app developer Tapulous will be creating a mash-up with the song from the Unsweetened truth spot, and one of its “songs of the week.” Tapulous, now part of the Walt Disney Interactive Media Group, will also be promoting truth’s videos and mobile games through its mobile platform.

Myxer, Inc. – Myxer is a mobile technology company allowing consumers access to free media content through their mobile phones. Myxer will create a teaser game to drive teens to truth’s mobile games.

Mobile Theory – Ad network Mobile Theory will be promoting truth’s mobile games through its network.

The Unsweetened truth spot will play in cinemas across the country via Screenvision and NCM theaters, prior to select PG-13 and R-rated movies popular with teens.

The campaign will run from February 28 through June 30.
The Unsweetened truth spot will appear in movies and on the Web in locations popular with truth’s youth audience.

Director: Baker Smith directed the Unsweetened truth spot. Smith previously directed the iconic 2003 truth ad called “1200” – featuring 1200 people falling to the ground simultaneously, to symbolize the 1200 people that die of tobacco use every day in the United States. Smith, of Harvest Films in Santa Monica, CA, has also directed spots for Toyota, Fox Sports, the Independent Film Channel and Gatorade.

Music Composers: Music for the spot was composed by brothers Roger and Scott Wojahn, of Wojahn Bros Music, Santa Monica, CA. The Wojahns have created original music for many national brands, including Ford, Home Depot, AT&T, Taco Bell and Electronic Arts.

Production: Unsweetened truth was developed by Arnold Worldwide of Boston, Legacy’s advertising agency of record for the truth campaign. PHD of New York City developed and implemented the media buying strategy for the new creative.

About the truth® campaign and Legacy
truth, launched in February 2000, is the largest national youth smoking prevention campaign and the only national campaign not directed by the tobacco industry. The campaign exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry, the truth about addiction, and the health effects and social consequences of smoking. truth allows teens to make informed choices about tobacco use by giving them the facts about the industry and its products.

Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation’s programs includetruth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking;EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry.




About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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