Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the CDC, if smoking continues at its current rate, 1 out of every 13 Americans under the age of 18 today -- in other words, 5.6 million people -- will die early from a smoking-related illness.
Truth, one of the most successful and largest national youth tobacco prevention campaigns, has a mission of finishing smoking off for good. However, unlike the much mocked top-down "Just say no" campaign of the 1980s War on Drugs, Truth believes in the power of teens using their own unique style and creativity to spark conversations and drive change. That's why Truth turned to teens -- acclaimed graphic artist Kevin Lyons and longtime partner Vans -- to create a tobacco-free-inspired public art installation in North Carolina. The art created was then translated into a limited-edition, customizable sneaker.
The crowd-sourced mural shared uplifting words from teens across the country collected via social media, about joining the anti-smoking movement. Appropriately named "We That Generation," the mural illustrates how this generation will be the one to end smoking. "[Street art] provides a really amazing forum for both the artist and the community itself," Lyons says. "It can do a lot of good in a community. It can say a lot of things. It can send messages that can remind the community of what to do."
In partnership with Vans, Truth and Kevin Lyons turned the imaginative installation into a limited-edition, customizable sneaker by applying the design to the classic Vans Authentic shoe. The black and white shoe allows teens to color in their own sneakers, making them unique. The anti-smoking message is meant to inspire this generation to use their creativity to share their vision of a tobacco-free world, and save the lives of their peers while doing so.
Riding the new craze for "adult coloring books," the sneakers are a fun, innovative and trendy way to make a statement about a very important topic. This mural-to-sneaker project is just one example of how truth is encouraging teens to use their creativity to end smoking for good. The shoe is an extension of truth's "Finish It" campaign, which was launched in August 2014, with the goal of empowering smokers and nonsmokers alike to make this the generation that ends tobacco use.
Truth notes that while much progress has been made -- teen cigarette smoking is down from 23% in 2000 to just 7% today--, Big Tobacco isn't backing down. They still target teens in their marketing strategies, and win when movie actors smoke on screen. That's the current status quo -- until teens #FinishIt for good.
Although there are currently no plans for additional sneakers, truth is exploring new partnerships and product integrations. Last December, truth partnered with Tyra Banks to launch a "Smoke Your Eyes, Not Cigarettes" campaign featuring a smokey-eyed make-up palette.
Truth is an excellent example of using creativity to make an impact. Let's hope teens accessorize their way away from tobacco, and #finishit for good.